Cell phones

Cell Phones

Something really crazy happened the other day. I ran into a person that used their cell phone… as only a phone. Can you believe that?!
cell
It is crazy how times have changed. We now hold in our hands mini computers, video cameras and social media devices. Some of us remember when a phone was used to make calls.  In fact, I remember when all we had was a ‘party line’ — a number of families sharing the same phone line!

Culture and technology changes. Our lives are much different now than they were even five years ago. Is there anything that remains constant? I have good news…The Bible. The Creator knew we needed a reminder of what is most important. Life is not really about apps, tweets or band width. It is about the wonderful story of how God loves us and demonstrated that for us.

A challenge this week: use the Bible for its intended purpose. Read it. If you are just beginning, I suggest you start in the book of John. Read and marvel at how we can find hope, purpose and direction in a constantly changing world.

I plan to do so, right after I take a picture of my bible, send it to a friend on email and post verses on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! 

Ducks in a row…

Having your ‘ducks in a row’ is a challenge we might hear in a leadership meeting, from a parent or in an office setting. The reality is that it also has great value in our spiritual walk with Jesus. To get ducks in a row, you have to have ducks!

ducks on a row

Before we consider what our “ducks” are, it is always good to consider who is telling us what ducks look like. Most of our guidelines for life come from institutions or other individuals. Too often the world’s system defines for us what is important and what needs to be lined up and saluted. I would suggest that for the followers of Jesus those “ducks” need to be what HE considers important.

With that as our backdrop, here are a few areas that need to be understood at the deepest levels and lined up to have confidence and encouragement in our spiritual journey with Jesus. *

1. Jesus is God: John 1:1-2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

2. Jesus created the world: John 1:3-5. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it

3. Jesus’ Humanity: John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

4. Jesus’ command to love: John 15: 12-13 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

5. Jesus’ Sacrifice was sufficient: 1 John 2:2 and Hebrews 9:12 2. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 12. He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

6. Jesus rose from the dead. John 20:19-20, 29 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

7. We who follow HIM are in process. Phil. 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

• thoughts gleaned from Baseball chapel handout July 6, 2014

Give and take

My Closet

The other day I asked my wife, Carin, a question about my closet. “I think 95% of my clothes have been given to me as gifts from family, sports teams or others. Do you agree?” Her answer was what I expected. “Yes.”

closet

It is amazing how we can accumulate things over the years. I don’t like to throw anything out. I hoard things, thinking, “someday those will fit again” or “those will eventually come back into style.” Typically, neither happens. (Yes, I know, I’m cheap! So there is no need to respond to this blog with that comment!)

But the reality of my full closet took my thoughts in another direction. Instead of concentrating on my inability to discard clothing my thinking went to an attitude of thanksgiving. A lot of people have been generous to me over the years. It was amazing to think of all the love represented in that closet. A short but sweet verse came to mind:

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. Proverbs 11:24-25

Guess it is time to get rid of some of my clothes. Anyone need a lime green leisure suit??

Are you in Labor?

Today we celebrate Labor Day. This holiday was originally organized to celebrate various labor associations’ strengths and contributions to the United States economy. Today it has become a day of rest. For many people Labor Day marks the end of the summer.

Most of you reading this post have begun the process of sending kids back to school, or maybe you are a student yourself. There is a sense of excitement for some; sadness for others. Some are sad because they see school as a grind. Others will be missing the freedom that summer brings, along with all the fun activities and sunshine.

As you read this blog I am resting and reflecting…I am on vacation. It is good to have work, but it is also good to have time to get away!

Psalm 116:7 “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”

I am loving vacation!

Have fun back in the grind of everyday life 

Rules

Rules

If you are fortunate enough to have children, there is a good chance you have heard questions like, “Why do I have to go to bed now?” It seems we are born with a bent to go against the rules. Yet most would agree that life without rules would get pretty complicated.

Imagine:
• A sporting event without sidelines or umpires
• An office without a policy and procedure manual
• A business with no hours

We understand the need for rules to maintain order. But sometimes rules can get in the way.
rules
Luke 13:10-17
And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God. But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? “And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him.

Jewish society had a list of rules about the Sabbath. I am sure the woman in these verses was fired up that Jesus came to the synagogue that day. But the synagogue official was so focused on rules he missed the miracle!

My good friend Jerry Price (co-author of Beyond Betrayal and Sandusky Bay) has taught me many things. One that I think about often is the difference between intent and impact. Some rules may have been created with good intentions, but the impact may not be good. This does not mean we don’t have to obey those in authority. If rules are in effect we need to follow them. But we have the right to ask why.

And we need to ask ourselves if we have made rules with good intent that have not had good impact.

Ascent…

PSALMS OF ASCENT

As mentioned in an earlier blog, I was given a wonderful gift this past spring…a trip to Israel. It was an amazing time for Carin and me to see the context of the scriptures. Any of you that have made that journey understand the impact such a trip can have.

ascent

One of the most moving moments was standing on the steps to the temple and learning about the Psalms of Ascent. Psalms 120—134 make up this package of prayers. Ascent means “going up.”
These psalms were to be sung when the children of Israel came to Jerusalem and ascended to the top of Mount Zion three times a year, where they would hold a feast before the Lord. The physical ascent of the Israelites up Mount Zion is a ‘type,’ or a picture.

“Some scholars, with greater probability, have assumed that the word, ascents, refers to Israel’s going up to Jerusalem (which was in the high mountains of Judea) at the three annual feasts.

There are still other scholars who think that these fifteen psalms were composed to be sung upon the flight of fifteen steps leading from the outer court to the inner court of the Temple. According to faint echoes found here and there in the Talmud and midrashic literature of the Jewish rabbis, the theory is advanced that one of these songs was sung upon each of this flight of fifteen steps.

Still other students of the Word think that we are to interpret the word ascents spiritually and understand that these songs are speaking of progress and development in the spiritual life.

The explanation which seems to coincide with all of the facts as they appear in this collection of psalms is that our term, ascents, speaks of Israel’s return to God and restoration to fellowship with the Almighty in terms of the Jews’ going up from all parts of the land to Jerusalem to appear before Jehovah and to worship Him there..

Taken from: http://www.biblicalresearch.info/page112.html

The first Psalm of Ascent, Psalm 120, begins, “In my distress I called out to Jehovah.” This is a picture of regeneration. When we first cried out to the Lord, we were saved. The last Psalm of Ascent, Psalm 134, begins, “Bless Jehovah now, all you servants of Jehovah who stand by night in the house of Jehovah.” Here we see servants of the Lord who are no longer in the world, but in the Lord’s house. They stand “by night,” which refers to the time immediately before the Lord comes back. These servants are those who are standing for God’s testimony and are exercising in the church life to bring the Lord back. Therefore, these fifteen short psalms give us an overall picture of our Christian growth from regeneration to the Lord’s return.

• Psalms 120-122 are the first stage, the stage of “vision.”
• The second stage, Psalms 123-125, focuses on our consecration. Out of our vision we come to a consecration.
• The third stage, Psalms 126-128, is the stage of enjoyment. Our consecration leads to a rich enjoyment of the Lord.
• The fourth stage, Psalms 129-131, we will call the stage of enlargement. Our enjoyment of the Lord eventually causes us to become an enlarged person.
• Then from our experience of enlargement we enter the final stage, the stage of maturity (Psalms 132-134).
Taken from http://www.jesusloversincleveland.org/English/bible/pofa/stage1/psalms1.htm

Imagine seeing all the tribes of Isreal going up these steps singing praises to God. As we think of our prayer life, may we enter with confidence but also reverence.

What to do with Alcoholics?

A few weeks back I sent a thought forwarded to me about alcohol. Many responded. Remember, that blog was not about having the occasional beer or glass of wine, but alcoholism. In light of that I am following up with this blog by Heather Koop. Gives a good perspective.

I get a lot of emails from people who’ve read Sober Mercies, which means so much to me. But I keep noticing how one particular line from the book keeps coming up. Last week, after three people in a row quoted the same sentence, I went back to read it in context (italicized below):

“The particular brand of love and loyalty that seemed to flow so easily here [in recovery meetings] wasn’t like anything I’d ever experienced, inside or outside of church.

But how could this be? How could a bunch of addicts and alcoholics manage to succeed at creating the kind of intimate fellowship so many of my Christian groups had tried to achieve and failed?
Many months would pass before I understood that people bond more deeply over shared brokenness than they do over shared beliefs.”

brokeness

Aha! Clearly, a lot of you have shared my experience—felt a lack of community in a church setting or been surprised by the depth of community in another kind of group. I think my conclusion resonated because it hints at the reason why. After lots of thought, here’s a more developed theory:

• When folks gather around a system of shared beliefs, the price of acceptance in the group is usually agreement, which means the greatest value—stated or not—is being right. Unfortunately, this often creates an atmosphere of fear and performance, which in turn invites conformity.
• But when people gather around a shared need for healing, the price of acceptance in the group is usually vulnerability, which means the greatest value—stated or not—is being real. This tends to foster an atmosphere of safety and participation, which in turn invites community.
I’m not saying recovery or support groups are good and church groups are bad. But I do think the latter could learn something from the former about how to create safe places where intimate community can happen.

Of course, we all face the same challenge on how to foster authentic connection. As much as our souls crave it, our ego fears it. For most of us, it’s fairly easy to share intellectual head space with someone: We know this, we think that. Not much risk there.

But inviting that person into our heart space where we may feel broken in places takes courage, sometimes even desperation.

Last week, a recently widowed friend of mine came to stay in our guest room for a week. As much as she was tempted to isolate at home, she had the bravery to finally admit she needs to be around people right now, and let them into her grief.

And here’s the beautiful part. Dave and I needed this, too. Since all our kids are long gone, her presence in our home felt like such a gift. Having her join us for dinner or watching TV—she in her pajamas—gave us a dose of that family feeling we keenly miss.

On this Good Friday, I find myself thinking about the crucifixion in the context of connection. How the Old Testament Law failed to bring mankind close enough to God. How God sent his Son to die—beaten and broken on the cross—so He could make his home in our very soul.

Maybe God understood that we bond more deeply over shared brokenness than we do over shared beliefs—not just with each other, but with him, too.
Heather Kopp