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.

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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

The Sorrowful Way

It took 30 minutes when it normally takes only five.

What?

Yesterday, I drove from my office to get some lunch. Its a five-minute drive. But cars were bumper to bumper and lacked purpose and intentionality of movement.

Busy urban life.

Lots of things are busy:

  1. Malls
  2. Popular Restaurants
  3. Commuter Traffic
  4. Young Families
  5. Holidays

Speaking of Holidays

They can be very busy. Everybody coming and going. Shopping and spending. Its madness. But that’s the holidays. 

Jerusalem

Passover was a holiday, of sorts, and busy. Hundreds of thousands attended from everywhere. It was crazy crowded and Jerusalem was a beehive. Money to be exchanged, animals to be sacrificed, relatives coming in by the bucket full.

During the week before Passover, Jesus and disciples would come in to Jerusalem in the mornings and then leave in the evenings.

However, there was one day he might have stayed too late. He ended up in Gethsemane, on the Mt. of Olives, where he was betrayed. They arrested him, led him back into the city, and put him on trial; back and forth between the Roman and Jewish authorities. Ultimately, the Roman governor caved and let the mob have him. “Take him away, take him away.” So, they did, to Golgotha.

What A Mess

The Via Dolorosa, the way of sorrows, was clogged with Roman soldiers, Jewish Temple guards, and a severely beaten and scourged Messiah carrying his cross. People were coming and going and shopping and spending. There were sheep and goats, and open air shops. The children were running and the merchants were selling. It was the Feast of Passover. And It was crazy crowded.

Via Dolorosa street sign, Jerusalem

It took 30 minutes to get to places that normally only took five.

To Close

I wonder if Jesus wished he had gone back to Mary and Martha’s instead of to Gethsemane? It really didn’t turn out so well for him.

The Bible

But for us?

Shalom

Who Wants a Hot Dog?

Hot Dogs

Ate a hot dog for dinner. It was okay. Not fond of them, but I ate one.

Places to Get a Hot Dog

  1. Ball games
  2. The Circus
  3. Fast Food Restaurants
  4. Pool Party Cook Outs
  5. Camping Trips
  6. Carnivals
  7. The Store

The best hot dogs are the dogs you get at major league baseball games, or at stock car races, or at a tractor pull and at other exciting events. We love going to those things. It’s how America connects with their heroes. We go to see our favorite hitters, drivers, and ear drum splitters. In other words, to see celebrities.

The Famous

Sometimes famous people accidentally wander down to our level. Like when they are lost or need directions to Walmart.

It’s called a celebrity sighting. We get their autograph, or maybe shake their hands. I had a celebrity sighting in the Atlanta airport. As I approached my gate I recognized one of our famous astronauts. I screwed on my courage and walked over to meet him. He couldn’t have been nicer. We spoke for a few minutes, he even thanked me. He was so cool.

Wow, I realized there was just enough time to get a hot dog.

In Jerusalem

Is that how it was in the Temple courts at Passover? Jesus was there each morning teaching, healing, and helping the people. Huge crowds came to hear him, to see him, and to receive his blessings. The buzz around the city must have been wildly exciting.

“The Messiah is at the Temple, and is teaching, and healing and helping.”

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Jesus of Nazareth was famous. He had celebrity status. But he wasn’t lost or needing directions. He was intentionally down on our level. He came for the lost sheep of Israel, for the children, and for those hardest to love. He came for the regular people, to die for them.

Sadly, there weren’t any hot dogs.

Shalom

Suffering: I’m Not A Fan

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death… Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation…” Hebrews 5:7-9

Suffering

Don’t like it, don’t want it. It’s inconvenient. However, Jesus needed it. 

Some Misconceptions

  1. “Suffering is God spanking us for our sins.”
  2. “Only losers experience suffering.”
  3. “Suffering can be avoided by money and control.”
  4. “Suffering is pain and pain is to be avoided.”

Why We Think So?

  1. Ours is the home of the brave and the land of the free. We shouldn’t have to suffer, it’s Un-American. It’s our birthright.
  1. We blame God. It’s his fault. He should be watching over us. It’s unfair.
  1. We equate suffering with poverty. People suffer because they are poor.
  1. We believe suffering is a weakness of character.
  1. We deny it, pretending all is fine while coming apart at the seams.

The Reality

Suffering comes to us all. The day arrives when we get personal with grief, sadness, and pain. If it’s not us, then it’s our family. The worst suffering isn’t what happens to us, but to one of our kids.

Faith & Suffering

It’s hard to trust God in suffering. Why? Because I don’t want to go the extra mile when I’ve already been forced to go the first one, or turn the other cheek when I’ve just been slapped, or give more to the one who’s already taken from me. I don’t want to pray for my attackers, or forgive them, or love them. It hurts too much.

But trust him I must.

Please Consider:

  1. Suffering seasons the soul.
  2. It shapes and matures us.
  3. Suffering develops humility and compassion.
  4. It increases resolve, patience and wisdom.

To Close

Jesus suffered. He asked his Father to take the cup of suffering away. He prayed and he cried out in tears. But God said no.

Suffering perfected Jesus. Through his perfection, we are redeemed and made whole.

The Bible
Jesus suffered. Mary suffered. Should I escape the cup of suffering?

Perhaps my suffering can be a blessing to someone else. 

Thank you Jesus.

An Amazing Evening

Tuesday evening I attended the Yom Kippur service at Temple Emanu El.

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Temple Emanu El in Houston

The Synagogue

The Synagogue was beautiful, large, and tastefully done. The presence of the law of Moses and the Prophets was obvious, and good.

The Service

Yom Kippur is the Great Day of Atonement found in Leviticus 16 and perhaps the greatest of the high holy days in the Jewish calendar, perhaps only Pesach, or Passover, equals it.

The service was two hours long, and the congregation of about 1500 attendees stood for most of it. Standing is a demonstration of honor and respect for Yahweh and for Torah. I’ll admit my feet were tired and sore.

The service consisted of prayers, songs, and readings. It was very well done and deeply personal.

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Standing For Most of The Service, Both Young and Old

Some Observations

  1. I have rarely been among people in possession of such a reverential focus. They didn’t fidget, shift, or move. They stood quietly in honor of Yahweh.
  2. The music was phenomenal. Some was acapella, some with a string ensemble, and some with an organ. It stirred me greatly.
  3. The prayers, of which there were many, were sung by the Cantor, in Hebrew. I didn’t follow most of it but was moved by all of it.
  4. There were moments of great passion and of quiet reflection.
  5. I couldn’t help noticing the lack of technology. There were no screens, projectors, or monitors. There were no power point presentations. Nothing but the hearts and voices of people of a deep and abiding faith.

Honoring Their Ancestors

One part of the service honored their ancestors. When this was introduced my immediate thought was grandparents, great-grandparents and so forth. Nope. They honored Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Rachael.

I sat there in awe as I released I was in the company of hundreds of people who traced their ancestry to Abraham. Frankly, it was inspiring.

Sin

Part of the high holy days of October includes fasting, confession, and repentance for sins. There was a deep emphasis on the recognition of sin and for seeking Adonai’s mercy. It was convicting, impactful, and cleansing.

Yeshua Ben Yosef

I’m a believer in Yeshua Ben Yosef, or Jesus son of Joseph. The people around me were not. My heart aches for them and when I pray for the Jewish people, I pray not for nationalism but for their acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God.

To Close

I completely enjoyed my visit. The service was marvelous and their devotion to God was every bit as real and sincere as anyone I know.

By the way. How is your faith in Jesus? Is it strong? Are you fully engulfed in a life devoted to serving and honoring him? Am I?

Just a thought.

Shalom

Calling Mr. Fiffy

I have an odd last name. Or at least it’s spelled oddly. I don’t know when“Fyffe” came to be or who decided to spell it like that.

Here’s What Happened

Yesterday morning I went to an area hospital to have a scheduled procedure. The procedure went fine, I’m fine, it was an outpatient thing, and I home by 9:30 AM.

The issue was in how they pronounced my name. Think of, “iffy” and then place an F in front of it. Yep, all morning I was Mr. Richard Fiffy. My last name is pronounced, “Fife.” It’s spelled with a y and a couple of f’s in the middle, but it’s pronounced Fife, not Fiffy, not iffy with an F. 

When they called me back and to get ready they said, “Richard Fiffy, Mr. Richard Fiffy.” People snickered, I’m sure of it. Then it was the nurses, a Doctor, a lab tech, and so on. I  corrected them at first and then just gave up.

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Mr. Richard Fiffy: Not Me Or My Nurse, But Close

Oh well.

What About Jesus?

I was thinking about Jesus and some of his names:

Jesus or Yeshua

Messiah or Christ

Emanuel

Jesus of Nazareth

Son of David

Son of Joseph

Rabbi

Teacher

Lord

Master

Shepherd

Son of God

Savior

And others….

At home, in Nazareth, he would be known as, “Yeshua Ben Yoseph,” or Jesus, Son of Joseph.

Names With Function

Many of his names were expressions of function, or service.

  • Rabbi: teacher, a name with high honor
  • Shepherd: serving and caring for the flock of Israel
  • Son of David: from the tribe of Judah and from David’s line
  • Savior: to save from sin, to save from the world
  • Emanuel: God had come close, God was among the people

What’s In A Name?

At the end of the day, it didn’t matter that they got my name wrong; but Jesus, that’s different. It’s different because of functionality, service, and core identity. I was just a patient, but he is the Son of God. 

To Close Out

We want to get his name right. We should. He is the Savior, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He came to serve, to seek, and to save. He was crucified, high and lifted up so all could see the shame of the cross, the shame he despised.

Other than common courtesy, it doesn’t matter if you get my name wrong. But for Yeshua Ben Yoseph, well, that matters and it mattes a lot. He is our Lord, King, and Rabbi. He is our Savior, Shepherd, and our Salvation. Yes, let’s get that one right!

Finally

Calling Mr. Fiffy, Mr. Richard Fiffy?

Oh Well.

And Who Is My Neighbor?

Yesterday’s blog was about being neighborly. This morning I’m thinking about the Jewish expert who asked Rabbi Jesus a question. Actually, he asked two questions and the second one was about neighbors.

The First Question

“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus asked a question in return, which was the Rabbinical style. When someone asked the teacher a question, he answered with a question. The student discovered the answer to his question through the process of answering the Rabbi’s question. It was brilliant. Jesus asked him, “How do you understand the Law of Moses?”

The man answered by saying to God completely and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus affirmed his answer and was ready to move on. But the man wanted to justify himself, for Jesus had responded with such wise simplicity that the man was a little embarrassed. So he asked a second question.

The Second Question

“And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus told him a parable about neighbors. A traveler was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Two men walked by but didn’t help, one a priest and the other a Levite. All priests were Levite’s but not all Levites were priests. Both would have wrestled with purity laws, about remaining undefiled by doing nothing to make them unclean; like touching a dead body or having contact with blood. It wasn’t a lack of compassion, but how they kept the law of Moses, staying undefiled was higher than helping someone who was dying.

Next in the story, a Samaritan stopped and did everything to help. He didn’t make defilement more important than being a good neighbor.

Jesus asked the expert, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Yet another question from a wiser Rabbi. The man had no recourse, so he answered, “The one who had mercy on him?”

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The Lesson

We typically miss this. We think the parable is about helping the helpless. It isn’t. Not that Jesus wouldn’t want us to stop and assist, of course he would. The Samaritan chose to make the injured man his neighbor, and so he loved and cared for him, by being a neighbor. 

The parable was Jesus’ answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Look closer at what Jesus asked him, “And which of the three men was the neighbor?” Not which of the three men helped their neighbor, but who was the neighbor? The answer was obviously, the Samaritan, he was the neighbor to the injured man.

The Lesson

Jesus wanted the expert to understand that the Samaritan was the neighbor, and the question of, “And who is my neighbor,” was answered, the Samaritan is your neighbor. 

The turn of words placed the burden of neighborly love right on the expert’s shoulders. A tough lesson, for his was a culture steeped in racism; the Jews hated the Samaritans.

Jesus used his Rabbinical skills to teach a strong truth. We aren’t to busy ourselves deciding who we will love and who we won’t. We shouldn’t debate which people to be neighborly with. We are everyone’s neighbor, especially those we want to hate, despise, and reject. We are to love the Samaritans, not pass them by to keep ourselves clean and undefiled.

Jesus On Trial Banner

To Close

Eternal life goes to those who love God and love their neighbors. The Samaritan is your neighbor, love him.

Some pretty tough love wouldn’t you say? Do you have any “Samaritans” in your life?

What did Jesus tell the religious expert, “Go and do likewise.”

Shalom

Book

Find my book at http://www.rickfyffe.com

 

The Forgiveness Chart

I’m struggling with Jesus this morning. 

Taking Issue With Jesus

I don’t like Jesus sometimes. I love him. But I’m not always good with certain teachings.

Here’s one:

“Not seven, but seventy-seven times.” As in, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother, up to seven times,” asked Peter?

Sure

Sure. That’s going to happen. I get Peter on this. At least he’s being honest, mostly. He wants a limit. He needs a line. Actually, he wants a law that protects him so when he’s forgiven his brother seven times, he can then righteously punch his lights out, or hold a lifetime grudge, or something. I like it. Seems fair. Yep, I’m with Peter on this one. In fact, I think I’ll offer a practical “Forgiveness Measure Chart.”

Each type of offense should receive a certain number of forgiveness’s, and then…!!!

The Rick Fyffe Forgiveness Quotient Chart: (FQ)

  • HURTING YOUR FEELINGS: a three-FQ
  • INSULTING YOUR FAMILY: a two-FQ
  • BACK STABBING YOU: a 1- FQ
  • GOSSIPING ABOUT YOU: a 2-FQ
  • WEARING SOMETHING TACKY: a 6-FQ
  • GENERAL SNIPPINESS: a 4-FQ
  • NOT SUPPORTING YOUR TEAM: a 4-FQ
  • NON-SPECIFIC OBNOXIOUSNESS: a 7-FQ
  • NOT RETURNING YOUR LAWN MOWER: a zero tolerance-FQ

So after allowing the full number of FQ’s per type of offense, you are permitted, and protected by law, to do to them as they have done to you, or worse, because you should get a little extra for having been patient in the first place.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of keeping good records.

Seems Fair?

This seems fair to me. It’s carefully measured and will help everyone be more consistent. The whole eye for eye thing remains intact, but now it has appropriate guidelines and policies we can all live by. Besides, forgiving people up to 77 times, or 70 X 7, was never going to happen. Theres just no way anyone would ever practice that level of forgiveness.

 

 

Man-at-cross

Shalom

Something I Needed To Do

My wife has been encouraging me to write a book. But I was resistant.

  1. I wasn’t a good enough writer.
  2. Who was I to write a book?
  3. I didn’t have anything to write about.

She disagreed, and kept encouraging me.

Then Israel

Then about five years ago my church’s leadership sent us to Israel. We had never been.

Touring the Holy Land can be a nice vacation or a life changing experience. For me it was the ladder. I came home deeply affected, inspired to study, to read and to research.

Here’s What Happened

I became immersed in the Jewish Roots movement. The JRM is the discovery of how the bible’s history and message are deeply rooted in the Hebrew culture. There is so much more to learn, to know, and to be blessed by. 

And Then…

After a year of study and research, I went back to Israel. Which led to more study, research, and awareness. And then I went back again for a personal tour. Emerging from all of that was a series of lessons I preached to my church entitled, “Our Spiritual Roots.”

I wanted to show them how the Scripture is one seamless message from Genesis to Revelation, all of which points to him. I hoped they would see how the whole Bible is rooted in the message and story of the Messiah.

As A Result

After that series, I was convinced I had something to write about. And so I did. The book’s title is:

                      Jesus Our Messiah

              From the Covenant to the Cross

                                                                       Book

Is It Any Good?

I don’t know if its any good, my readers will decide. But I’ll tell you that it came right out of my heart, right from my soul.

Some Encouragement

So let me invite you to read my book. It’s neither a commentary nor a textbook. It’s personal, illustrated with beautiful and powerful stories, and is a journey beginning with Abraham’s blood covenant with God and concludes at the cross.

I hope it draws you closer to the heart of Jesus.

You can read more about the book at my website, there is even a brief video about the book, just click on the Projects tab.

If you would like a copy, you can buy one from the website.

Also: for those of you in the Houston area, I’m having a book signing tomorrow from 12:00-2:30, and the book will be available as well.

Southeast Church of Christ, 2400 West Bay Area Blvd, Friendswood

God bless you.

www.rickfyffe.com

Seeing is Believing, Right?

The coolest thing happened. I had stopped for coffee, was checking email, and saw a message from someone I didn’t know.

Friends From Long Ago

It was from a woman my parents knew long ago. Her husband, like my dad, was stationed at Bentwater Air Base, near Ipswich, about 80 miles northeast of London.

Both couples had young children, and had shared much in common, and grew close during those years in England.  That was in 1957-1961.

Then she decided to reconnect with my mother, but didn’t know where she was. She had heard that I was a preacher in Texas and through the Internet found me and got my email from the church web site.

Did I Remember Her?

I didn’t remember her, just a faint sense that they were friends of my parents during those years abroad. 

To demonstrate she wasn’t scamming me, like a Nigerian Prince in trouble, she attached some pictures. They were black and white photos of my brothers and me, I’d never seen them, but I knew I wasn’t being scammed.

photo
Little Ricky, Four Years Old

Connection

I called my mom and explained the email, and she was excited to reconnect with an old friend from fifty years ago. I sent her the photos. 

I wasn’t sure about the email until I saw the pictures. Somebody once said, “Seeing is believing.”

Do You Remember Thomas?

After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples. But Thomas wasn’t there and when they later told him that Jesus had come, he doubted. He said that unless he saw the nail marks and put his hand in his side, that he would not believe.

Jesus did appear to Thomas and showed his nail scars and allowed him to put his hand in his side. Then Thomas declared, “ My Lord and My God.”

But his belief was based on seeing the scars.

Jesus said that those who believed without seeing the scars would be truly blessed.

Wrapping This Up

I wasn’t sure the email was real until I saw the pictures.

I would love to meet Jesus face to face. I would give anything to take him out to lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant and talk and ask questions and be blessed by his presence.

Why is it, even after all these years, that the idea of seeing Jesus in person would boost my faith and deepen my resolve to serve him?

The Close

Blessed are they who believe that Jesus is the Son of God; and that he was crucified, buried, and rose on the third day.

I believe.

Still, a picture or two would be pretty cool. Just saying.

empty tomb

Shalom