Location: New England, United States

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Memorial Day

Why does a soldier fight?

A soldier fights over there so we do not fight the war here.

A soldier fights for the Rabbi reading from the Torah.

A soldier fights for the woman pursuing her medical degree.

A soldier fights for the couple who just gave birth to their third child.

A soldier fights for the grocery clerk stocking the shelves.

A soldier fights for the newspaper editor writing tomorrow's opinion.

A soldier fights for the young boy with Presidential aspirations.

A soldier fights for the new patent on the next generation of broadcast technology.

A soldier fights for the rapper writing his next song.

A soldier fights for the actress who just finished her best picture.

A soldier fights for the minister conducting Sunday services.

A soldier fights for the blogger who rants against his own leaders.

And tonight, a soldier fights for me. He may die for me - am I worth his life?

I hope I am.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Linen Suit

Spring is here! I love spring when the aroma of the awakening earth runs along the wind and through the leaves on the once barren branches. Everything is fresh and clean like the smell of new mown grass.

I pack away my sweaters, boots and heavy coats and replace this amour with cottons, sandals and linens; including my linen suits.

Have you ever worn a linen suit? It hangs crisply on the hanger looking business- like and smart, but even the act of 'putting it on' produces the first crinkles of the day. As the day progresses, the car seat belt, your office chair and the movements of arms create their own impression on the suit. As the day continues, your activity is imprinted on the suit for all to see so by the time you return home, the suit is wrinkled and disheveled.

Our soul is like that linen suit. When we awaken each morning, we feel refreshed and neatly pressed; ready to take on the day. Then the day makes its impression on us with crinkles of misunderstandings, creases of anger and frustration, wrinkles of worry, and perhaps a spot or two of despair. By the time we return home, our soul is disheveled.

Unlike the linen suit, we cannot press out our soul's wrinkles with an iron. The fluff setting on our dryer will not plump us up again, nor will a dry cleaners restore our soul.

No, only God can set things right for us. A visit with God will clean the spotting, iron out the wrinkles and fluff out the fabric of our being. We are restored by our Creator - but only if we visit with him at the end of the day.

"Thou art a hiding place for me, thou preserves me from trouble; thou dost encompass me with deliverance. [Selah] I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not keep with you. Many are the pangs of the wicked; but steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!" Psalms 32:7-11 RSV

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Winter Harvest

"After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves." Luke 10:1-3 RSV

We have seen that the first fruits will be harvested together before the heat of the summer; lest they wither. The summer fruits are harvested as they ripen and mature. Now let us learn about the winter harvest.

The seeds of the winter harvest were planted along with the first fruits and the summer fruits, however, they have taken longer to germinate and grow. Their growth or even germination may not even appear until after the first fruits have been taken up. Though they may grow along side the summer fruits, they did not benefit from the spring rains. They must persist through the blazing summer sun and possible summer droughts.

The days become shorter with more darkness and cold nighttime winds. An early frost may sear their upper growth. They grow hard shells such as pumpkins or winter squash to withstand the cold, or they may hide underground as potatoes and parsnips. They are not as flavorsome as their spring and summer counterparts, but they have much more substance because of the hardships they have survived.

The Hebrew Harvest Feast of Sukkoth is celebrated five days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Sukkoth is when the final harvest is carried into the storehouse. It is also called the Feast of the Tabernacles to commemorate the huts constructed by the Israelites in the desert. These huts were temporary dwellings which could be erected, taken down and carried during their wanderings. It is also indicated that these huts were constructed in the fields during the final harvest allowing the field workers to sleep close to their fields until the harvest was complete.

"Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house!' And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages; do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; heal the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.' I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on that day for Sodom than for that town. "Woe to you, Chora'zin! woe to you, Beth-sa'ida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Caper'na-um, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." Luke 10:4-16RSV

These fruits will carry the people through the long, cold winter and witness the returning spring.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Summer Fruits

"Thus the Lord God showed me; behold a basket of summer fruit." Amos 8:1 RSV

The first harvest has been completed leaving room in the garden for the summer fruits. Those grown during this time are the most robust and abundant. They are hardier than the first fruits for they have matured in adversity. They are not harvest together as the first fruits were harvested - but they are harvested as they mature.

These fruits share smaller amounts of rain and blazing sun. They weather thunderstorms; possibly hail. They are subject to predators, insects, slugs, root rot, mildew and drought. Subsequently, they are firmer, spicier, juicier. They provide more nourishing spiritual food than the first fruits because of their adversity. Herbs, spices, cantaloupe, watermelon, tomatoes,
corn, beans - these are the summer fruits harvested throughout the long hot summer.

"Do not be afraid to serve the Chalde'ans. Dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you. As for me, I will dwell at Mizpah, to stand for you before the Chalde'ans who will come to us; but as for you, gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and store them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that you have taken." Jeremiah 40:9-10 RSV

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The First Fruits

"As an offering of first fruits you may bring them to the LORD, but they shall not be offered on the altar for a pleasing odor. " Leviticus 2:12 RSV

God's earthly abundance is tied to seasons; there is seed time and harvest. He promised that if we plant our seed, the harvest will be a hundredfold. However, this hundredfold harvest is so bountiful that it must be harvested in divisions or the fruit may wither on the vine before all has been brought into the storehouse.

The expulsion from the Garden ushered in the winter of desolation. Despite periods of sunshine, there was very little growth, but when Jesus started his ministry the planting season began. Those seeds were germinated in the upper room on Pentecost. It is no coincidence that the Hebrew festival of Shavout (Feast of the First Fruits) was also celebrated on that very day.

The first fruits are planted in the first days of increasing sunshine. Rain is abundant and although a late frost may take out some of the crop, most of the early fruits weather the nighttime temperatures with little trouble. These fruits are usually tender such as lettuce, peas, strawberries - for they have been cultivated in the most ideal conditions. They are cherished because they are the first abundance after the long winter, and so the first harvest is completed.

"Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed." ICorinthians 15:51-52 RSV

Thursday, May 11, 2006

From My Prayer Journal

This morning you told me that you love me. I want you to know that I love you, too. How can I express my love to you with mere words? They are inadequate to encircle my feelings. I can only express my love through your Word - your son, Jesus.

You have been my salvation, my light on a dark path. I can shine that light on every dark corner of my life and the fear fades away. You have lifted me above confusion and around despair. I have glimpsed heaven through your joy.

What I perceive as difficult, you have made simple. What I could not accomplish alone, you have carried me through in the palm of your hand - safe and hidden.

I look forward to coming home; to seeing your face when I have shed that which separates me from you - my earthly body. Thank you is such a small phrase, but it is all that I have to give. In Jesus' name, Amen.

"And he said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest, nor is anything secret except to come to light . If any man has ears to hear, let him hear." Mark 4:21-23 RSV

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

How Do You Navigate the Waters of Life?

We are all on a journey crossing the waters of life to a distant shore. We all start from the same place, but not all of us reach our destination in the same way - if at all. We all want to go home, but it is how we choose to get there that is the key.

There are those who want to get there as quickly as possible, under their own power, so they choose a speed boat. But, they soon find that the crossing is a bumpy, teeth grinding ride. They never reach home because a speed boat cannot hold the fuel to reach that far off destination.

There are those who favor crossing in luxury, so they choose a cabin cruiser, but a storm comes up, and their boat fights against the wind. The boat is tossed against the waves, falters and stops. They drift on the waters never reaching their destination.

Then there are those who choose a sailboat. They open their sails to the wind knowing that this; instead of man-made fuel, will propel them to distant shores. If the wind dies down, they open more sails. If the wind becomes strong, they trim the sails. The wind helps them glide above the waters instead of plowing through and when the weather is brisk, they 'head up' sailing closer to the wind. As the wind changes direction, the sailboat tacks, always adjusting to the wind.

The sailor speaks his own language: rigging, luffing, coming about, that sounds foreign to those choosing to stay on the land. Although they pass through the water without much churning, they still leave a wake and they eventually reach the new land of their visions and dreams. They have come home.

"But at midnight there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise replied, 'Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he replied, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. " Matthew 25 6-13 RSV

Monday, May 08, 2006

Forgive But Not Forget

"...but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:15 RSV

There are two idioms that I would like to address. One is 'Forgive and forget' and the other is 'I will forgive, but I will never forget'. Is there room for both in the kingdom of God?

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." John 14:27 RSV

For us to have peace, we must forgive as Christ forgave. God's plan of salvation through his son, Jesus promises us that our sins are forgiven if we believe. All our past, present and future sins were laid upon the cross, and we walk with God as though there had never been a separation fostered by sin. This removes guilt. Going forward, guilt would be another sin because it is not based on God's plan of salvation. Remember, guilt should come before forgiveness; not after.

When we forgive but not forget, the veil of guilt still hangs over the other person. Also, the veil of self-righteousness hangs over ourselves. The relationship is not restored. The only change is that the power has shifted from one person to the other. We must not only forgive, but forget if the relationship is to be restored.

Also, when we do not forget, our peace has not been restored. Though we hate to admit it, there is no forgiveness without forgetting, for that remembering allows an open door to Satan for stirring up the anger all over again. We must forgive and forget.

Jesus had raised up Peter by appointing him the first leader of the his new church. Peter certainly had a bravado about him and was probably the best candidate for this job. However, when the atmosphere became charged and danger was imminent, Peter denied knowing Christ three times.

When Jesus appeared to the apostles after his death, Peter repented. He didn't tell Jesus he was sorry, but his actions spoke of sorrow and repentance. Jesus forgave him as he prophiesied at the Passover meal - but did Jesus forget?

Obviously, he did because Peter was still the first leader of the church. His sin existed no more.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

God or Church?

God has carried me to a unique position in my spiritual walk with him. Some thirty years ago, I walked down the aisle of a small Baptist church in Kentucky confessing my commitment to God's plan of salvation through Jesus Christ, his son. I remained at that church for just under two years, then my time there ended.

The next thirty years were spent alone with God. Periodically, I did 'visit' churches feeling that perhaps I should belong to a congregation, but I never found a fit. Meanwhile, God was instructing me, loving me, and preparing me spiritually through his word in the privacy of my own home.

Recently, God directed me towards a Baptist church in my town, and I reluctantly joined this church - not because I felt a connection here, but because God told me to join. Though, I would have preferred to be kept separate, he had work for me to do at this church.

My concern in joining a church was that I would once again become immersed in 'church' leaving behind God's spirit. You see, I was raised a Catholic and taught that the church was all important, all knowing, divinely appointed to be the liaison between God and myself. The church issued proclamations, demanded compliance with their institutions and interpreted God's word to their congregations based on their ideals. To this clergy, compliance with the church dogma was the road to salvation, and it should be revered.

So, did I find a difference in the Baptist church? Who can see the heart of a man, except God? But, I have noticed that the greater number of days per week spent in church service, the greater esteem bestowed. And, I am greatly saddened by this.

In both cases, the love is for the church. The church has become our focus of attention, adoration and perhaps salvation. This is not what Christ intended when he created the church.

"Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, ..." Matthew 4:5 RSV

This verse from Matthew has great significance. It shows that the temple or church of the day no longer belonged to God because it had been infiltrated by the spirit of Satan and that spirit was the same spirit that had separated Lucifer from God - pride.

When we venerate the church instead of God, we are venerating ourselves because we are the church. We have placed Jesus' Bride as our object of worship, and just like Lucifer, we have proclaimed ourselves wiser and more worthy than God.

Did we forget?

"And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split;..." Matthew 27:51 RSV

God destroyed the temple - or church - when Jesus had finished his plan of salvation. No longer would our sins be forgiven through the church by sacrifice or penance, but rather through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Salvation - God's Plan or Man's Plan?

"What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him." Matthew 21:28-32 RSV

Many believe that penance and repentance are synonymous, however, the meaning for each are strikingly different from each other. The Greek word for repentance (Metanoia) is mentioned no less than fifty- eight times in the New Testament and means - a changing of one's heart or mind about something.

The idea of penance (from the Latin, poenitentia) did not originate until well after the apostolic age when men such as Justin and Augustine searched for some type of contrition by man to justify the sinner and restore him to the Spirit of God.

The originators of the Reformation rejected the idea of post baptism forgiveness of sins by contrition and penance. Both John the Baptist and Jesus called sinners to repentance, not to penance because the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus was the only payment necessary for the forgiveness of sin. This payment included the past, present and future sins of the believer.

Both Judas and Peter rejected Jesus prior to his crucifixion. Judas handed Jesus over to the authorities and Peter denied knowing Jesus three times after his arrest. Which was forgiven for their denial?

There is no doubt that Judas was sorry (contrition) for what he had done, and he certainly paid his penance (death). However, it was Peter who was forgiven. He turned away from his denial and became the first and strongest witness to God's plan of salvation.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Struggle

"I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and there there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." I Corinthians 1:10 RSV

Paul goes on to write about the divisions between the church at Corinth. Affiliations were declared - "I am of Paul, I am of Cephas" - and so forth. We have inherited these divisions, and by feeding our divisions, we have kept them alive to this day.

I am a Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist and the list is long. Every division believes that they are the key to the kingdom, but I tell you that if we are divided - we have lost. And, what have we lost?

We have lost a united front against Satan.
We have lost our peace.
We have lost our validity before the world of lost souls.
We have lost our wisdom.
We have lost our momentum.
We have lost our spiritual stamina.

Paul goes onto say "When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." I Corinthians 2:1-2 RSV.

To whom do we belong? We belong to the one who called us. In the beginning sentence of I Corinthians, Paul identifies himself as being 'called' by the will of God. He then identifies the congregation at Corinth in the same way, "To the church of God which is at Corinth to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.."

We all belong to God through his son, Jesus. This is our only claim to salvation. God made it so simple - it is only man who complicates the process of salvation.

The Warning: "For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever, I will thwart." I Corinthians 2:19 RSV

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