The Storm of the Centuries

His name was Glen.

Meeting Him

I met Glen while serving in my first ministry, in 1980, in Pomona, California. He and his wife were members there, and he was on staff.

His Skills

He was an accomplished man. He was a great teacher of scripture, an expert furniture maker, and was a fine musician and artist, and an excellent cook.

His Faith

Glen came to faith in his adult years. Until then, the gospel had been unfamiliar. But when he came to Jesus he came full speed, was all in, and he never looked back.

He was effective with young people and I had never been around anyone like him. He was fearless, bold, and seemed a modern apostle Paul. He led scores of young people to Christ, as many as 50 to 75 each year.

He was remarkable in many ways. Perhaps the most remarkable: he was an ex-convict. He became a believer in prison, when released, he became a minister of righteousness. He ministered in California’s Youth Camps, prisons for young men 18-21.

And another remarkable thing: he was blind.

Now Jesus-John 9:1-3

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but his happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

Storm of the Centuries

Hurricane Harvey will go down as the most devastating storm in American history. Those who lived through it wondered why it happened, why us, what did we do?

Jesus would say it wasn’t about anything that anyone did. It happened so the work of God might be displayed.

The Work of God?

It’s there if you look, it’s abundantly evident.

  • It’s the volunteers who rescued people day and night.
  • It’s the people who helped even though their homes were destroyed.
  • It’s the spirit of compassion manifested all over the city.
  • It’s the realization of what and who is most important.
  • It’s millions of people praying and seeking God.

helping in Harvey

The atheist says phooey. The skeptic calls it humanitarianism. But the believer sees the work of God displayed in high definition. Through great fear, crushing loss, and unprecedented destruction, the work of God shines like a rainbow after the storm.

To Close

The storm was a result of nature, just like the man born blind. But Harvey created a reason for millions to come together, to focus on something bigger than ourselves, and to be reminded who God is and why he matters.

I know exactly how Glen would have seen it.

Shalom

What Is Your Ark?

Woke up this morning thinking about Noah.

I Wonder Why?

  • Maybe the 24 hour a day rainfall?
  • Or the 2o” of rain in the last couple of days?
  • The people boating their flooded streets?
  • Helicopters rescuing people from roof tops?

Personally

I love the sound of falling rain. But lately, it’s become the sound of anxiety, fear, and loss. With every inch of rain, somewhere there’s another two feet of water, welcomed by the two feet already there. And another neighborhood goes under.

Feels like Judgement Day, but it’s not.

Harvey
Hurricane Harvey: will it ever leave? 

The Promise

God promised Noah the earth would never again be destroyed by water. That’s good news for the earth. But cities, towns, and houses are still vulnerable.

 He once destroyed humanity for their sins. Is that what’s happening to Houston? What about League City, Sugar Land, Beaumont, Lake Charles, New Orleans, and ….?

Sure, Houston has plenty of sin, but plenty of redeemed sinners too. And such is the case all across Harvey’s destructive path.

But Harvey isn’t forever, it just feels like it. Hurricane Harvey will have its final blast of wind, its last drop of rain. Then it will be gone, and it will be over. 

Noah & His Ark

  • He had never seen a flood.
  • He had never built an ark.
  • He had only a few helpers.

But build it he did. It floated, protected his family, and it got the job done.

From Hebrews 11:7

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen in holy fear built an ark to save his family.

The ark was salvation, built by faith, saving a family from a world-wide flood. The ark becomes a metaphor, a symbol, for all that comes by faith.

To Close

Your ark may be the raft, the boat, or the helicopter, or the media alerting you to the tornado in your neighborhood.

Perhaps the car getting you to safety before the roads flooded. Or the shelter that provided food and safe sleep. Your ark may be your family.

rescue boat

Your ark may be your faith.

God be with you all. Keep breathing, keep going, and keep believing.

Shalom

A Mighty Wind Swept In

He lost his family, his health and his home. But he didn’t lose his faith.

A Remarkable Story

We all know him. We’ve read his story, a story of heart-ache and heart-break. It wasn’t his fault, he didn’t do anything wrong. Nor were his forefathers guilty of sins that were being punished down the generations.

He was overwhelmed with death. His wife turned against him. His home, possessions, and wealth were destroyed. He was struck with illness, painful and incurable. He had a few friends, but they were untrue.

From Job 1:18-19

“…your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house, it collapsed on them and they are dead…”

From Job 1:20-22

“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’” 

“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

A Great Wind

Some have lost their home and possessions.

Some have a damaged home and damaged possessions.

Some may have employment challenges or have lost a business.

And the horrific wind of Harvey isn’t finished. There is more for Houston and the people of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, and maybe others.

Harvey

Some Good News

In time, Job was restored and blessed beyond imagination. You too will be restored and blessed. You’ve been attacked by the mighty wind and there is heart-ache and heart-break. You will need the patience of Job to get through this. 

Let us resolve to have patience beyond that of Job’s wife.

To Close

The storms are frightening. The lightning and thunder unnerving. The water rises and we  dwell on the worst, it’s hard not to. It isn’t your fault, you’ve done nothing wrong, and you aren’t being punished.

This morning, I want to lift you up to that higher place. That place where faith sustains, strengthens, and assures us.  

Shalom

A Sprung Mind?

Punctuality is the cornerstone of civilization.

A Recent Movie

In the movie, “Arrival” alien ships come to our world. Nations want to know who they are and where they are from.

An astrophysicist suggested that science, the cornerstone of civilization, would be the bridge. Another suggested that language was the cornerstone of civilization and therefore would be the key. 

They Were Wrong

 Science and communication aren’t the keys to civilization, its punctuality. Without it, civilization weakens and crumbles into chaos.

The Calendar

My daily schedule stays busy with appointments in and out of the office. I keep all appointments on my phone’s calendar, even those occurring weekly. It’s just my way. 

There’s a discipline I strive to maintain:

  1. Never be late.
  2. On time is five minutes early.
  3. Never keep people waiting.
  4. Always keep your appointments.

You can see why punctuality is the cornerstone of civilization. It keeps the madness from descending. It may be the only thing.

Tuesday Morning

I got a call at 7:15 asking if we were still having breakfast. I was mortified, mystified, and embarrassed. In that moment, I felt the earth shake, collapse was imminent. 

man eating breakfast
Not me or my friend, but close, really very close!

I couldn’t figure it out, I knew I had put it in my calendar. Then I realized my mistake, I’d entered it for the wrong day. I wasn’t just not early, or even just late, I was a no show, a total breakdown of society’s punctuality laws.

To Close

He forgave me. We rescheduled, no harm no foul. But still, it irked me. Am I not perfect? Am I not in control? Do I not possess a steel trap mind?

I think my mind has sprung.

Shalom  

Could They Save a Life?

Life’s little inconveniences can, at times, seem annoying.

Summer Serenity

They’re gone. Those lovely months of stress free driving are gone. They’re gone because school is back and now we’re coping with more cars, slow-down speed zones, and clogged drop off lanes. What of drivers who haven’t a child to drop off, must they be forced to endure?

Kids walking to school

Tax Dollars at Work

Could the taxes I pay for public schools also pay for school zone express lanes? Just imagine, a designated lane for drivers not dropping off kids. It would be so great!

I know

The school zones aren’t there to inconvenience me, I know. But it feels like it. Here are five alternatives I’m considering:

  1. Leave earlier and beat the school rush.
  2. Leave later and avoid the drop-off crush.
  3. Use Uber and leave the driving to them.
  4. Have a helicopter fly me over them.
  5. Did I mention designated express lanes?

Here’s a Thought

Let’s say the school zone speeds limits were eliminated. So, I’m driving along, appreciating the faster pace, and a little girl runs out from between two parked cars and I’m going too fast to stop. How would I feel then?

If such a horrible thing happened, how would I approach that school zone the next time? Would I slow down even if it wasn’t required?  Would I feel the need for caution? Of course, I would. It’s the difference between an inconvenient law and a respected value.

Here’s Another Thought

Long ago, an ancient prophet predicted that God would make a new covenant with his people. It would be different, it would be a covenant of the heart. Not a list of rules, but honored values and respected principles living within.

To Close

Jesus brought such a covenant. The old rules, chiseled in stone, were replaced with divine values written on hearts. Christ’s teachings can vibrantly exist when they exist within our souls.

I shouldn’t resist the inconvenient rules. They may have value, they may save a life.

Shalom

Jerusalem or Shechem: You Decide

They stared at me, glared and watched me. I didn’t belong.

In China

I was taller than most, had different skin, and my language was different. The Chinese stared and glared.

In Haiti

I was taller than most, had very different skin, and my language was different. The Haitians stared and glared.

But in Houston, where I belong, nobody stares, glares, or notices me. Its home.

About Jesus

In Galilee and Judea, Jesus wasn’t noticed either. But when he went to Shechem, he stood out like a sore thumb. He…

  • looked different.
  • sounded different.
  • had different customs.
  • was a foreigner.

Shechem was the epi-center of everything important to its residents.

  • It’s where Abraham received God’s covenant.
  • Jacob owned land in Shechem.
  • Joshua led the Israelites to Shechem.
  • It had Mt. Gerizim, the mountain of worship.

The problem was that Shechem was in Samaria and the Samaritans hated the Jews. The Jews were racist, despised the Samaritans and considered them less than dogs. Twice the Samaritans built a temple on Mt. Gerizim and twice the Jews tore them down.

But Jesus had to go to Samaria. Not by lack of roads, but because he had spiritual business. He offered salvation to a Samaritan woman, who told her community about him, and then he offered salvation to them too.

The woman wasn’t rich, powerful, or respected. She wasn’t morally acceptable. But Jesus offered her living water, the Holy Spirit, not because she deserved it, but because she didn’t. She was a broken, fallen person and a perfect representative of a broken and fallen people, the Samaritans. 

The Amazing Messiah

He didn’t argue their differences, didn’t debate who was right, or attempt to change her perspective. He just offered a new perspective, that he was Yahweh’s anointed and that he came to offer the Father’s love and the Father’s gift, the Spirit.

To Close

Shechem was Samaria’s spiritual center and Mt. Gerizim was their sacred place to worship. She had reason to worship there, and reason to be proud of it.

But in the Messiah’s kingdom, worshipping God wouldn’t be about geography, skin color, or historical significance. Nor would it be a religion for the morally superior. Jesus came and waited by the well for her. 

jesus-and-samaritan-woman05sm

His Kingdom calls forgiven sinners to worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.

Shalom

Love Is The Greatest Command! If Only We Believed

Racism, prejudice, and hate; three of the moral cancers in our country.

I Remember…

  • The KKK, in full costume, marching around the city square, in 1993.
  • The racial jokes, and the laughter, told on the front steps at church.
  • The first black family to join our church, met with opposition.
  • I remember a church in Alabama with a tract in their tract-rack entitled,

“Does A Black Man Have A Soul.”

An Ancient Attitude

Hate isn’t new. Cain killed his brother. Discrimination victimizes the different. Bullies brutalize over religious preferences, sexual orientation, or skin color. When kids rope a gay teenager to a tree and throw rocks until he’s dead, then hate still lives.

It’s difficult because it’s hard to arrest and convict people based on what they think. Law governs behavior, not ideas.

Jesus In Samaria

When Jesus went to Samaria he was going against the grain. Jews and Samaritans had been fighting a race war for 500 years.

He entered a town and offered salvation. Yes, they looked different and had different customs. They were the descendants of those who at one time were pure blooded children of Abraham, but that changed, and it changed everything, for everyone except Jesus.

The Greatest Command

Jesus said to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and that it was the first and greatest commandment. The second was to love others like we love ourselves.

  • Love is the greatest command.
  • Love triumphs.
  • Of faith, hope, and love, love is the greatest.
  • Love is the most excellent way.

I received a text from a friend. My friend is educated, well credentialed, and highly respected, and happens to be black. Some won’t like it, some will be saddened by it, some will think about it. Here it is:

“I have been dealing with the fact that many Christians I know voted for the current President. I tried to rationalize it as a misguided political decision steeped in fear of the illusory loss of white privilege in America.

But I am now dealing with an even deeper wound that folks could actually support the racist behavior and support the symbols that go with those white supremacist movements. I’m not quite sure how to manage my own feelings of disgust or how to stand in love for someone who has such low regard for me and others like me.  

I’m just saying, church folk can be quite hurtful.”

“I Feel Your Pain?”

Jesus said to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Those in the majority may fail to grasp the pain the minority feels as they struggle to love the hurtful and the hateful.

To Close

Politics and politicians come and go. Political parties rise, fall, and rise again. As they do, some rejoice, some rebel, and some get deeply discouraged. Such is the way of a free society. Unless, or course, you are the boy tied to a tree, swinging from a rope, or severely beaten on a playground.

Love is the greatest command. If only we believed it.

The Bible

Shalom

It Happened at the Well

It would be unusual, surprising, and perhaps even shocking.

The Well

Jesus and his disciples traveled north from Jerusalem to Samaria. Their route isn’t known. What is known is that they went to the village of Sychar. Tired from the 35 mile journey, Jesus sat down by a well.

jesus-and-samaritan-woman05sm

The Woman

A Samaritan woman came to get water and was surprised to see a Jewish man. But Jesus was friendly and asked her for a drink. Her response was predictable.

“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”

It was a fair question, probably reflecting her surprise that a Jew would drink from the bucket or cup of a Samaritan. Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans. It was a boiling feud that had been boiling for 500 years.

The Issues

  1. A man speaking to a woman in public
  2. A rabbi talking to a woman in public
  3. A Jewish Rabbi talking with a Samaritan woman 
  4. John 4:17-17 revealed she had a checkered past
  5. It was unusual, surprising, even shocking

Is that why she went to the well at an odd time? Was she hoping to avoid other people? Was she not respected and therefore not accepted?

But Jesus

He didn’t care. He really didn’t. It mattered not that engaging her was taboo and broke a bunch of social norms.

He offered her living water, which from a study of John means that he offered the Holy Spirit, but she didn’t understand. The story ended well, in fact, it’s an awesome story and has much more depth than we typically see. It’s one of most significant events in his  ministry.

To Close

Jesus was more than a Rabbi, or a Prophet. He was the Messiah of God, his anointed. He came to seek, find, and redeem those in need. The Samaritan woman needed him, and he was there for her. In fact, he was waiting for her.

He came for me and he came for you too. If you don’t know him, he waiting for you!

Shalom

5:00 AM, Really?

Exercise, fitness, and determination. 

Yesterday Morning

I don’t workout every morning at 5:00, but I do most days. I did yesterday, and it was it tough to get out the door for an early Monday workout.

700-02798064
Not me or my work out place. But close, really very close.

Late Afternoon

I have a yard project that’s slowly taking shape. It’s slow because I’m working at a not too rapid pace. Its Houston, in August, and the heat is falling at a not too rapid pace. But I was out there in the heat digging, hauling, and lifting. It was brutal.

But Mid-Morning!

Sunday, we collected backpacks and school supplies for families in need. On Monday morning, adults, teens, and kids came to fill the packs with the supplies and get them ready for delivery.

One of the helpers was a good friend of mine. So, we eased down the hall to the gym, got a basketball, and played some one-on-one. I was soundly beaten.

That was three work-outs in one day. I am so fit. Well, fitt’ish.

Oddly

Going at 5:00 AM was hard and happened only by determination. The afternoon project, though enjoyable, was tough due to the heat. But oddly, the mid-morning basketball wasn’t hard, tough, or brutal. Nor was determination required.

Now Jesus

Each morning, while still dark, Jesus got up and went to quiet places. Not to exercise his body, but to nourish his soul. Walking Palestine’s roads was exercise enough, especially in the blistering desert heat.

Then, his day was spent preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing those brought to him. He also blessed some who weren’t sick, or in need of his teaching, for the kingdom already belonged to them. They were children. 

“He said to them,

 ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’”   Mark 10:14

To Close

It’s good to be physically fit. It’s good to be spiritually fit. Let’s pursue the one without neglecting the other.

Speaking of children, my friend who beat me badly was an eleven-year-old girl. I’ve known her since she was a toddler. Good going sweetie.

Shalom

Celebrating My 400th Blog!

Friday was my 400th blog. Today is 402.

Some Numbers

  • Been blogging since January 2016
  • Average twenty blogs per month.
  • Each takes about 2 hours to write.
  • That’s 800 hours or 33.3 days.
  • I’ve had 11,275 visitors
  • With 18,686 views

As blogs go, it isn’t yeasty, but I’m okay with that, it could be worse!

Some Observations

  • I can’t believe I’ve come up with 400 things to write about.
  • Some posts have been silly, about raccoons and such.
  • Some have been life observational.
  • Others have been serious.
  • Many have been about Jesus our Messiah.

Some Things I’ve Learned

  • I started the blog to teach, encourage, and entertain.
  • I kept the blog going because I fell in love with writing.
  • Eventually, I learned to blog not so much for others, but for myself.

Some Advice For Budding Bloggers

  • Write first for yourself, if it blesses others then great.
  • Many will tell you how to write and if it’s any good, ignore them.
  • It’s your blog, write what and how you like. They don’t have to read it.

To Close

I suppose I’ll keep blogging. It’s enjoyable, challenging, and beneficial, at least to me and occasionally to others.

So, here’s to the next 400 posts. Mercy, I have no idea what I’ll write about.

rick2
Thanks for reading and for following!

Shalom