Dallas: Big Gates, Large Roads!

I successfully navigated through Dallas, almost. 

What?

Four of us drove to Dallas to attend a Family Ministry Conference. Getting into Dallas, there were many interstates and toll roads to negotiate. And by many, I mean there were two.

But rush hour traffic was heavy and I was unfamiliar with every foot of road. 

Arrive?

O yes, we arrived, and even had time for dinner before finding good seats for the evening program.

The Thing

But here’s the thing. As we moved into downtown Dallas, the others had their phones open to provide instructions of where to go and when to do it. Between their phone’s audio instructions and their loud verbal cues, I was locked up with stress and tension.

I got so confused, entirely my fault, that I drove down the middle of an interstate that required going either left or right, which were the east and west options. To have remained in the middle would not have worked out well. So, I made a choice. I chose badly.

Dallas 2

What Happened

We just went to the next exit, which I also missed. Then to the next one, which I made, but was instructed to take an immediate right which I couldn’t due to heavy traffic in the adjoining lane. So, moving on, I made the next right, went around and found the street leading to the onramp for the interstate taking us back to the east/west option that I had originally missed.

It all came together, we got on the correct interstate and in an hour or so, we arrived at our destination which was just a couple miles away.

Gratitude

I would like to thank my travel-mates, and their phones, and their phone’s audio instructions, or their efficient and loudly communicated assistance. It was super.

Now Jesus

“Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Jesus makes a good point. The gate leading to the wrong path is well-marked and easily accessed. It’s popular, everyone is making that choice and going down that path.

Almost everyone. There’s a second path, accessed by a narrow gate that isn’t not well marked or easily accessed. It’s a gate that leads to life. It’s just a path that isn’t popular, few seem to even be looking for it.

The narrow gate isn’t hard to find because its camouflaged or hidden. It’s hard to find because the bright lights of the giant gate and massive road are overwhelmingly attractive and inviting.

To Close

BTW: my travel companions were right. They followed the map. They gave good directions, but I wasn’t listening, and the not listening led to my mistakes. I took the wide gate and went down the wrong road.

Listening makes all the difference for getting where God wants us to be.

Shalom

Salty & Shining Brightly

The essence of salt and the nature of light.

Salt

We were created to need it. It’s not our only need, but we die without it.

Light

The physical universe begins with light, for God spoke and gave it birth, it was day one. Not till the fourth day were the sun and moon purposed for day and night.

The light came first.

The Messiah

Jesus proved his authenticity by healing and he revealed his identity by the Scriptures. They recognized him as the Messiah, for his miracles and teaching were as the prophets predicted. They believed.

He launched his ministry by offering gifts to the disenfranchised. There were eight gifts in all. He said that blessings would come by having them. There were correlating actions or attitudes for each one. For example, those who mourned would be comforted, the merciful would receive mercy, and so forth.

The final gift was unique because there wasn’t a correlating action associated with it. The gift wasn’t given because of what they did, but because of what others would do: 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, 

for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Salt & Light

In the context of persecution, he said they were the salt and light of the world, which  was about their influence, their message, and a ministry that would bring the persecution. In that context, he cautioned them not to lose their saltiness or to hide their light.

The core meaning: Don’t let persecution leave you unsalted or afraid to shine your light. Discipleship must never hide under a basket.

To Close

He reached out to the lost sheep of Israel, to those who were unwanted because of their demon-possession, disabilities, and diseases. They were unclean and defiled. And Jesus came to seek and save them. He restored dignity and divine purpose by declaring them to be salt and light.  

He was the Messiah, called Emanuel. He was God among them and he came to save.

The Bible

Shalom

Can’t Remember Names!

 I’m barely keeping up. Which basically means that I’m not.

With Names

I see people I know, but can’t remember their names. It’s embarrassing and awkward. Then as I walk away their names come to me within 15 seconds.

After nearly 40 years of ministry, I still struggle with meeting new people and then forgetting their names almost instantly.

With The Pace of Life

Tomorrow is August 1. What happened to June? Did we skip July? I’ve traveled some this summer. Between the trips, family gatherings, church events, weddings, funerals, birthdays, and so forth, the summer has flown by at light speed.

There is more going on with people and places than I can manage.

Now Jesus

It isn’t fair to compare myself with him. He had some scheduling advantages. He wasn’t married, didn’t have children, didn’t own a home, have yard work, or need to get his cars serviced. Seems like his days were more productive than mine. And he got up while it was dark and found quiet places to pray. Maybe that’s why?

Then he had all the people with all their needs and concerns. Every day he took care of those who were:

  1. Hungry
  2. Hurting
  3. Deaf
  4. Blind
  5. Lame
  6. Leprous
  7. Demon Possessed
  8. Diseased
  9. Deceased
  10. Lost
  11. Defiled
  12. Unwanted

While daily helping the multitudes, he also had to cope with enemies, detractors, and persecutors. He was daily confronted by Rabbis and Pharisees who challenged him with questions both sincere and duplicitous. It must have been exhausting. Was it? 

To Close

Did Jesus ever feel like he couldn’t keep up? Did he get tired? Was he ever frustrated by their constant wants and desires? Probably not.  

Either way, I’m guessing he was good with names.  

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Shalom

“Needs More Salt!”

My introduction to the importance of salt came from football.

Two-A-Days

For a week in August we practiced mornings and afternoons. The heat and humidity were horrific. We were soaking wet by the time we got to the practice field. After each work out, we were given salt pills to avoid cramping. They said it was vital that we did.

football practice
Took salt pills to prevent cramping 

Salt had other uses too.

Sore Throat

We gargled warm salt water for a sore throat. I can’t remember if it helped. We ended up at the Doctor’s office anyway. 

salt into water
Gargling with salt water for sore throats?

Food

I remember my Dad, after the prayer, reaching for the salt and pepper shakers. So, we followed his example. Mom would say, “You should taste the food first.” She was right. 

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We shake a lot of salt on our food!

Clearing Ice

We cleared ice from the front steps and walk ways with salt. Not sure why the salt melted the ice, but it did.

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Not my sidewalk or my bucket, but close, really very close.

Jesus Said

“You are the salt of the earth.”

That’s Matthew 5:13. I guess those who heard understood what it meant. The Jews knew the importance of salt, especially those living in the desert regions.

Bible Applications

  • Flavor
  • Preserving
  • Medicinal
  • Essential for life
  • Influence

Do believers bring a sweet flavor to life? Do they preserve the world with righteous influence? Do people of faith bring healing? Are we essential to the world because we are its salt?

The Salt Covenant

Scripture mentions a Salt Covenant. It was primarily about trust. Each side trusted the other to sustain the agreements. The agreements were established and then salt was exchanged, the salt was a symbol of life. With God, he trusts us to give him our obedience and we trust him to provide what he promised.

To Close

Was there a Salt Covenant between Jesus and his disciples? Were they the salt the Messiah sent into the world? They changed the world by their influence, healing, and their Messianic message, and trusted Jesus to be with them always.

Do we have a Salt Covenant with Christ?

The Faces

Someone said, “I’m not two faced, if I had another face I’d wear it.”

Other Face Statements:

  • “He’s just two faced.”
  • “She has a face for everybody.”
  • “They lost face in that deal.”
  • “You need to face your problem.”
  • “Well, I need to get my face on.”

Some People

I’ve known people who had a face for everyone. They were chameleons, blending and adapting to the behavior and attitudes of whomever they were with. That must take a special talent?  

The Faces of Christ

Jesus was the same with everyone. But he did reveal his personality and showed different “faces.” He knew how to be all things to all people, unless the thing was immoral or immaterial.

Remember when Jesus…

  1. held infants in his arms and blessed them?
  2. challenged the Rabbi’s by asking, “Have you not read?”
  3. rebuked Simon for being a stumbling block?
  4. raised the widow of Nain’s son because his heart went out to her?
  5. felt compassion for the crowds who were sheep without a shepherd?
  6. set his face towards Jerusalem and the awaiting cross?
  7. wept with Mary and Martha?
  8. was “frustrated” by his disciple’s lack of faith?

Relating to Jesus

Some can’t relate to Jesus because he lived a perfect life. Thats tough to relate to. But consider that he also cried, felt sadness and happiness, and loved his mom. At times he appeared angry, frustrated, and impatient. Perhaps he wasn’t, but he wasn’t gentle and calm when he drove out the money changers and overturned their tables.

To Close

Look for his face for humanity, it’s there. It was a face full of human emotions. See him on the cross, scorning its shame, and asking…

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

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Our joy is the cross, for it’s an abiding symbol of his mercy and grace. But for Jesus?

The Story of One

My name is Richard. But I’ve been Rick or Ricky since birth.

What’s in A Name?

Richard” is a combination of two words:

  1. Ric: ruler, leader, powerful, king
  2. Hard: strong, brave, hardy

Therefore, Richard means “strong in rule.”

Some Things I’ve Ruled

  1. Captain of HS football team
  2. Editor of School Newspaper
  3. President of Hope For Haiti’s Children
  4. Executive Committee of Habitat for Humanity
  5. Milk-Monitor in third grade

A Let Down?

My life fell short of my name. I’m king of nothing, rule nothing, and have never been characterized as powerful, brave, or hardy. However, I totally owned that milk-monitor thing. If you wanted milk then you had to go through me. I ruled.

What’s In A Name?

“Jesus” is the English derivative of the Hebrew word: “Yeshua”

  1. It means salvation.
  2. Or, salvation of God.

Who Did He Save?

  1. A woman caught in adultery
  2. A thief on a cross
  3. Those raised from the dead
  4. A tax collector
  5. Mankind from their sins

A Let Down?

His life lived up to his name. He brought God’s forgiveness. He became King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He was Emanuel, “God with Us.” He was the lamb who took away the sins of the world.

He healed the demon-possessed, the deaf, and the blind. He restored mobility to the lame. Even the lepers knew his healing power. He cleansed our sins and destroyed the power of death. He reigns over us. He rules.

The Bible
Not the savior of the world, but close, really close!

The Prophesy

My name suggested that I’d rule with power, I haven’t. His name suggested that he would save the world. He did.

It was prophesied that Jesus would fulfill everything written about the Messiah in the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets, he did that too.

To Close

This morning, my sermon will demonstrate that the beatitudes were not just “random” statements, but teaching that came from Isaiah, specifically Isaiah 61. It’s the story of one, of one Savior from Genesis to Revelation.  

It all points to Him!

A Fork In The Road?

Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Good Advice?

It has some folksy wisdom since you’ve got to go one way or the other. It’s a trail trial, a challenge to going forward.

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An ATV trip in the Colorado Mountains is a spectacular experience!

Trail Trials

We faced some trail trials on a recent ATV trip in the Colorado Mountains. There were times when we had to go around because the trail was impassable. There were:

  1. Tall snow drifts
  2. Deep mud holes
  3. Fallen trees across the trail
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There were several areas that were impassable.

Where There’s a Will

There’s a way. We maneuvered around the obstacles, reached the top and eased over to the other side. But were immediately faced with something new.

It was a herd of elk.

elk herd
They didn’t hurry, didn’t rush, just calmly walked to the trees and were gone.

They were lounging in a meadow below us. We watched for a while then tried to get closer, but couldn’t. They got up and calmly walked to the tree line and disappeared. They were big, powerful, and majestic.

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Seeing elk in the mountains is an amazing thing to see!

Lewis & Clark?

We didn’t blaze a dangerous trail. Stories won’t be told. But there were some places where we might have chosen to turn back.

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It wasn’t a rugged trail, but there was an old rugged cross.

I’m so glad we didn’t.

Jesus And Trail Trials?

Luke 9 recorded that Jesus, “Resolutely set his face towards Jerusalem.” He followed his trail to the Holy City, to Passover, and through the gate to Golgotha’s cross.

His trials were of human and Satanic nature. Matthew recorded one that encompassed both. Jesus told his disciples about his impending death. Then Peter responded:

“Never Lord,” he said. “This shall never happen to you.”

“Then Jesus said, ‘Get behind me Satan, you are a stumbling block to me.’”

Our trials weren’t as intense, our stumbling blocks less severe. And at the end we had a beautiful experience. His trials were insanely intense, his stumbling blocks more challenging. And at the end he had the hateful cross.

We dealt with our trials by going around them, moving on to a pleasant place. He dealt with his by going through them, moving on to a determined death.

cross_jesus_wood_236183

To Close

There was a fork in the road. We took the easy path. He took the other one. It made all the difference.

Shalom

Having Divine DNA

“You’re the spitting image of your father.”

“You look more like your mom every day.”

Such Things

Such things are said when children mirror their parents. It may be their looks, how they talk, or their mannerisms and personalities. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” we sometimes say.

father son playing guitar
Kids want to be like their parents.

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend said to my adult son, “You are becoming more and more like your dad” I’m not sure how he felt about that? But I loved it!

Nurture/Nature

Is it DNA? Something genetic that gets passed down? Or is it nurturing within the family culture? We imitate those we are closest to.

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Sons want to be as strong as their Dads.

Fathers and Sons

Not to bias this piece with gender, but there’s an interesting beatitude about sons and the Father in Mathew 5:9:

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the sons of God.”

It’s The Only Beatitude That:

  1. Requires a specific action: “the peacemakers.”
  2. Promises a blessing of words: “will be called”
  3. Connects behavior with relationship: “sons of God.”
dad and son changing tire
Be with your father, become like your father.

The Context

“Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. Now when he saw the crowds…”  (Matthew 4:25, 5:1)

The eight blessings were rooted in the Psalms and the Prophets. The huge crowds of Jewish people understood what he said and what it meant. For them, the diseased, paralyzed, and demon-possessed, the outcast and lost sheep of Israel, Jesus offered connection, he offered them the Father.

To Close

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, for the Father embeds his divine DNA in the hearts and minds of his children.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.”

Shalom is a word the Jews say when greeting and parting from each another. 

It means Peace.

 

Believe It or Not!

Some things don’t make sense. Or, they don’t make sense to me.

Some Examples

  1. I don’t understand the internet, how so much information comes through a tiny wire into millions of homes and to millions of cell phones.
  2. I don’t understand road construction. Enough said.
  3. I don’t understand airplanes. I get there is less air over the wing and more air under it. Still, the weight of a passenger plane seems too heavy for flight.

Here’s A Thing

I recently went on an ATV trip into the Colorado high country. We got up to 12,000 feet. It was the last day of June, the sun was warm, and used sunscreen to prevent burning.

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It was so hot I nearly took my shirt off. Nobody wanted me too.

Yet, there were large patches of snow, and drifts over my head. I wore a shirt and shorts, and was often too warm. Was tempted to take off my shirt!  

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A huge snowdrift in summer!

Here’s Another Thing

I learned about Bristlecone Pine trees. They only grow at high elevation and rugged conditions. They appear to be rooted in stone. They are known to live for 3,000 years there’s a tree in California believed to be 5,000 years old. It’s the oldest known living tree in the world.

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The Bristlecone Pine, living at 12,000 feet and rooted in rock!

Here’s One More Thing

Jesus walked on water. He cured the sick and healed diseases. He gave hearing to the deaf, sight to the blind, and mobility to the lame. He cured the decaying skin of lepers and raised the dead.

I don’t comprehend that kind of power. On the other hand, he was there when his Father created the world. And nothing was made that wasn’t made through him, (John 1:1-2).

Do I believe God’s son created the world then balk at his power to heal? The former makes the latter a reality.  

To Close

Snow in summer, the internet, air travel, and the Bristlecone. Each are a mystery. Jesus our Messiah was raised from the dead, forgave sin, healed people, and then gave us the Holy Spirit.

empty_tomb_wide

I believe. 

 Shalom

Ghost Steps?

There are things that go bump in the night.

The Setting

I just returned from a trip to Colorado. It’s an annual sabbatical to write, study, and fly fish. It’s about silence, solitude, and hearing God’s voice. Friends arrange places for me to stay. Sometimes it’s with them and sometimes I stay in their cabins when they are gone.

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I Love to Fly Fish!

Bumps In The Night

On one occasion, while alone, I heard a strange sound. It was footsteps. Twice I jumped up, certain there was someone behind me. There wasn’t. I never figured out the sound. The house wasn’t haunted, or have a mysterious guest. But after the first time, I was on high alert. I had ears to hear.

Jesus Said It

Mark 4:9, “Then Jesus said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’”

A few verses later:

Mark 4:23, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

It was important to Jesus to be heard. But not everyone was hearing.   

The Old Testament

What Jesus said about hearing came from the Psalms/Prophets.

  • Psalm 135:16-17“They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear…”
  • Isaiah 6:9-10, “He said, ‘Go and tell this people,’ “Be ever hearing, but never understanding
  • Isaiah 43:8, “Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf.”

Isaiah had trouble getting people to hear God’s word, at times, so did Jesus. Some had  hard hearts, they didn’t want to hear.

When Jesus taught about hearing the word, he used the Psalms and Prophets to do so. In fact, everything he said came from the Old Testament. Which was useful since everyone he taught had a solid understanding of it. 

The Holy Scripture: It’s one message.

To Close

Bumps in the night and strange sounds get our attention. But when we figure out the wind is blowing branches across a window, or the ice maker is just dumping its ice, we ignore it, it’s no big deal.

Is that how it is with God’s word? It’s no big deal?

Just a thought.