Going Home

Dorothy told us there was no place like home, and she was right. But where exactly is home? And can’t “home” mean many things? As a boy, “going home” referred to home plate. It could also mean to finish strong, as in “bring it home.” Mostly going home was about Mom and Dad’s house and the places and memories of childhood.

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Did Jesus have a home? Yes, he did, it was Nazareth. He would be called, “Jesus of Nazareth” and “the Nazarene.” He later moved to Capernaum, but Nazareth was home; it’s where his family lived.

On one occasion he went to Nazareth, entered the  Synagogue, and taught from Isaiah 61. Everyone spoke well of him, “Our hometown boy has become a Rabbi. Isn’t it wonderful?” He then told them, “No prophet is accepted in his home town,” meaning that the Gentiles and Pagans would benefit from his teaching before the people of Nazareth would. Furious, they intended  to throw him off a cliff. But they didn’t; they couldn’t kill him.

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Someone said, “You can never go home again.” Jesus would never again be just Joseph and Mary’s son. He would never be the little boy the village had known. He grew up, became a Rabbi, and was confirmed by John to be the Anointed One. He had a divine purpose, and it wasn’t going back to make good in the carpentry business. For Jesus, purpose was defined by setting his face towards Jerusalem. The Nazarenes couldn’t kill him; it wasn’t his time, but his time would come, and it would be in Jerusalem.

So I ask, “Have you gown up? Have I?” Are we filled with purpose, or do we only dream about the glory days of youth, longing for that home town experience? It’s easy to imagine a simpler life with fewer responsibilities.

I love going home. But real fulfillment comes not from dreaming about my past but from the mission God placed in my life. Each day should be spent pursuing my calling, my mission. My face should be set on something more, something bigger. For me, that bigger thing is God’s Kingdom.

What is it for you?

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When Life Takes A Plunge

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It’s January 8, 2016, and the new year has seen it’s first week go down in history. The big news is the market, which is also down, plunging 392 points. It’ll bounce back, right? Should I be worried? Is it time to liquidate and fill my mattress with cash? I don’t know if Palestine had a version of Wall Street. If so, would Jesus have invested in the market? And if the market plunged, would he be worried?

After his baptism, the Spirit led Jesus into the desert; not Jerusalem or the nearest synagogue, but the desert. Did he go camping with marshmallows and hot dogs? Or was it a retreat for solitude, with quiet reflection and meditation? No, his desert experience was far more challenging. He took no food or water, there wasn’t a tent, a gas lantern, or an air mattress. Were there blankets and a pillow? Evidently he relied only on the sandals he wore and the faith he owned. This would be a test, a true trust experience in the Judean desert.

Jesus in the desert

After forty days, he was severely depleted; and that’s when it got really hard, that’s when the attacks started. Not with weapons of wood and steel, but the weapons of hell: pride, pleasure, and compromise. He was tempted by the body’s need for sustenance. He was tempted to test his Father. He would be tempted by the pleasures of wealth, power, and royal splendor. In the desert, he experienced real emptiness, poverty, and helplessness. Knocking at death’s door, maybe, just maybe, Jesus was  ready to embrace demonic enticements. Satan was counting on it.

But he didn’t. He worked through it, kept his integrity, and didn’t plunge himself into ruin; he chose the Father over self. I imagine him gaunt, with a blistering sunburn, cracked lips, and an unsteady stance. But he didn’t give up, give out or give in. Because of his victory in the desert, he could give us victory at the cross.

If Jesus invested and the market plunged, how might he respond? Would he remember the desert, how God kept him alive? Would he remember how he chose to honor his Father rather than bowing to evil? His choices in the desert prepared him for praying in the garden, when he said, “Father, please take this cup from me, yet not my will, but yours be done.” Thank God for the desert. Thank you Jesus for going there.

Jesus praying in the garden

 

Down to the River

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Scary Bridge Over Scary Water!

It unnerved me as a child when we crossed over rivers. It seemed so far down, and took so long, and the water seemed so dangerous. I closed my eyes, held my nose, and tried not to put my full weight down on the seat. But in time, the rivers became less threatening, and with more time, they became places of spiritual refuge and great beauty. Great things can happen in rivers.

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The Jordan River 

Seeing the Jordan River for the first time just flooded my mind with bible stories. The Jordan River, between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, played host to some magnificent moments. Joshua led his people across the Jordan and into the Promise Land. Naaman washed in the Jordan to cleanse his leprosy. Both Elijah and Elisha were active on both sides of the river. It’s where John baptized thousands, and where even I have baptized people. But more than anything, it’s where Jesus was baptized.

When you stand the on the bank where it’s believed John immersed the Messiah, it’s easy to imagine them in the river. Talk about a moment in history! Jesus wasn’t immersed because of sin. He had nothing for which he needed to repent. He was there because the greatest man ever born of woman, John the Baptist, would proclaim he witnessed God’s Spirit come upon Jesus, and that the voice of God celebrated, “This is my son!”

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Traditional Site of Jesus’s Baptism

At his birth, the angel declared a savior had been born. The shepherds found the infant Messiah and told everyone what they had seen. The Magi presented gifts of royalty, the gifts of kings. Collectively, they all pronounced that Mary’s son was the son of David, the Son of God. They coronated a King and proclaimed to Jerusalem, to Israel, and to the world that God Emmanuel had arrived. Thirty years later, a second proclamation was made. John announced that Jesus of Nazareth was in fact the Son of God, the son of David. Redemption and salvation had come to our world.

Mary washed her infant son with water, wrapped him in cloth, and placed him in a manger. John washed Jesus with water, saw him wrapped in the Spirit, and then placed in the desert for forty days.

Jesus came to the Jordan. He came out of the water knowing exactly what he was destined to do.

He came out of the Jordan so he could go to Calvary. It’s a new birth, to born again, filled with the Spirit.

God bless you.