A Bone Marrow Transplant

I’m not an expert, so please bear that in mind.

Stem Cell Transplants

Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow, where the blood cells are made. One treatment is to have a bone marrow transplant. The first step is to undergo a heavy course of chemotherapy, destroying the cancerous bone marrow, blood cells, and the immune system.

Then, the patient is given a bone marrow transplant with new stem cells. If successful, the new bone marrow will produce healthy blood cells and restore the immune system. Even the patient’s blood type changes.

bone marrow
Basically, something dies so something new can live, its transformation.

It’s a process of transformation. The cancerous bone marrow is destroyed so healthy  bone marrow can live, producing healthy blood cells. It’s almost miraculous.

The Power of Transformation

Paul wrote, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

Spiritual transformation is triggered by the renewing of the mind. As if to say, “If you want changed behavior, then first change your mind, if you want to be different, then get a different mind.”

Some Parallels

  1. Leukemia-Sin
  2. Diseased bone marrow-The ravages of sin
  3. Chemo kills the blood cells-The blood of Jesus gives new life
  4. Leukemia destroys the immune system-The Holy Spirit revives us
  5. What destroys must be destroyed-He who died makes new creations

A Renewed Mind?

It’s becoming holy in our thoughts, speech, and behavior. It’s the remodeling of that which was sinful and selfish into that which is holy and divinely beautiful.

The Holy Spirit is the architect of renewal. He will help you every day and in any moment. The Spirit offers renewal, if we allow it, if we seek it.

To Close, Simply

We can be changed, we can be transformed into the very image of Christ.

Shalom

The Human Kindness Meter

Are you a kind person? Rate yourself on the meter:

The Meter of Human Kindness

  1. Extremely Kind
  2. Very Kind
  3. Usually Kind
  4. Occasionally Kind
  5. Rarely Kind
  6. Never Kind
  7. What’s Kindness?

I know, it’s more of a list than a meter. But be honest, which number best described you? How would your family rate you? What about your friends and coworkers? How about strangers?

Kindness is everything it’s cracked up to be. We could use more of it, we could use all we can get. Seems like America is running low on the milk of human kindness.

Shakespeare

William penned that phrase. He used it of Lady Macbeth who thought her husband was, “Too full of the milk of human kindness to kill his rivals.”

Twain

Mark penned this phrase, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Well said Mr. Twain.

The Donut Shop

I stepped up and asked the young lady for a dozen donut holes. She handed me the bag, returned my change, and said, “Thank you for being so kind.”

Frankly, she caught me off guard. I mean, who says that? I got the sense she had being dealing with surly customers. I said please and thank you, and smiled, but nothing more.

“Thank you for being so kind.”

I discovered that I didn’t have a dozen donut holes, I had two dozen.

She had also been kind  

To Close

Kindness is respected in scripture, it’s taught, encouraged, and is a Fruit of the Spirit.

Jesus was kind, especially to children, to widows, and to the lost and hurting. He was full of the milk of human kindness, but not like Macbeth. His kindness wasn’t about others not dying, but about his dying for others.

The Bible
The milk of human kindness? 

He rated a #1 on the kindness meter.

“Such a Head For Knowing”

Knowing

I don’t know. There, I admit it. But If I did know then I’d be aware of what I didn’t know. Isn’t that called knowledge? I don’t know.

koreana-library
Just how much can I know?

If I Knew

If I knew more then I might start to question how much I think I know. Questions might arise:

  • “Do I know enough?”
  • “What if I don’t know enough?”
  • “How would I know?”

Here’s what bakes my bean: If I can’t know how much I know then how can I know how little I know? Does it take one to know one. I’m not sure that’s relevant?

I know one thing, I don’t want to be obsessed about not knowing enough. Currently, I have no real sense of how little I know. So there’s no reason to get my noodle in a knot.

Knowledge Is Odd

Knowledge is an odd commodity. We went to school to know stuff. Then we finished school. I guess we learned all we needed to know. But I’ve been out of school for a while now and there still seems to be a need to learn more. What is it I need to know more about? I don’t know.

Story time
I thought I was done with knowing when I finished school?

Here are some “knowing” statements:

  • How could I know?
  • Do you know?
  • What do I know?
  • You’re such a know it all.
  • You know better!
  • Know this!
  • You know what I mean?
  • You know what to do.
  • Didn’t you know?
  • You have such a head for knowing.
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A head full of knowledge and always more to learn!

Plato said,Courage is knowing what not to fear.” If that’s true, then is cowardice knowing what to fear? Thanks Plato for clearing that up.

Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” How did he know that? That doesn’t make sense. Way to go Socrates, you knocked that one out of the park. 

Warren Buffet said,Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” That means I live with great risk most of the time. I knew it.

To Close

Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Now that’s worth knowing.

Shalom

Was Jesus a Loser? Am I?

When are you most aware of your need for help?

  1. When you’ve hit rock bottom?
  2. When you’ve been humbled?
  3. When you’ve failed?

Failure?

We sometimes think that people who are in need have failed in life. That their egos were too big, their arrogance too fat, or that they messed up and got what they deserved. Is it true?

I don’t mean is it true that we think it, but is it true that people in need are victims of their own behavior? Sometimes?  Sometimes not? We all make mistakes, and life can be hard and cruel.

Someone once said this to me:

“Winners never rely on others for help.”

Was Jesus a loser? Twice he was helped by angels: once when he was in the desert and once when he was praying in the garden.

It’s hard to wrap my mind around Jesus not being a winner. 

Jesus knew what it was to be helped. Did he fail in life? He also knew what it was to give help. Am I a failure or a loser for needing his help?

I certainly know what it is to be in need.

Five Characteristics: I’ve noticed this about people in need:

  1. Impoverished: lacking funds, resources, opportunity, health
  2. Disenfranchised: have lost privileges, rights, respect, dignity, connection
  3. Brokenness: can’t function, can’t think clearly, have been decimated
  4. Shame: diminished sense of value, feel deeply unworthy
  5. Humbled: fallen off the ladder, brought low, can’t make it on their own

Helping

The Messiah came to help. I guess he knew it would be needed. He asks his followers to do the same.

The church I serve is filled with compassionate people. They help the poor, house the homeless, feed the hungry, visit the sick, and provide for people near and far. They can’t help everyone, but they do what they can and they do a lot. They are Jesus people.

rel_secoc7.04-2_2
The Southeast Church of Christ: People seeking to be like Jesus.

To Close

We all need a little help now and then, don’t you think?

 I know I do.

Shalom

That’s Why We Praise Him

Great Expectations: not the Dickens novel, but the perspective of people of faith.

Some amazing places I’ve visited:

  1. The Grand Canyon
  2. The Great Wall of China
  3. The Mountain ranges of Alaska/Western Canada
  4. The view from the Empire State building’s observation deck
  5. The Statue of Liberty
  6. Jerusalem, London, Beijing, New York 
  7. The Temple Mt. and the Garden of Gethsemane
  8. The oceans

Some I saw as a child, and some I’ve seen since. But all were places intentionally visited, with eager enthusiasm, and with great expectation.

The Final Expectation

I’ve seen wondrous things and visited magnificent places. But there is still one place on my list. It’s the place I’ve wanted to see most, but haven’t gotten there yet.

I want to see Heaven.

What Paul Said

To encourage those who were struggling, Paul wrote this:

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And we will be with the Lord forever.”

Statue-of-Jesus-the-redeemer

I Can Only Imagine

No pain. No hardship or heartaches. No disease, sickness or suffering. No abuse or cruelty.  No hate, malice, or war. No greed. No oppression or poverty. No sadness. No mental illness. No more struggle. No more death.

No more.

It’s Why We Praise Him: From Psalm 145

I exalt You, my God the King,
and praise Your name forever and ever.

I will praise You every day;
I will honor Your name forever and ever.

Yahweh is great and is highly praised;
His greatness is unsearchable.

In Closing

Worship is more than liturgies. Its more than reciting rote prayers and mumbling ancient hymns. It’s the expression of our minds and hearts and comes right out of soul. It’s our gift to God, the gift of honor and exaltation. 

That’s why we praise him, that’s why we sing.

Shalom

His Tender Mercy

Changed, not just affected or influenced, but different.

What Happened?

Actually, there have been several life events that were more than an amazing moment or a great idea. I’ll list some in the hopes that they’ll remind you of some of your own.

  1. An impoverished Haitian mother who begged me to take her baby.
  2. Walking through the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.
  3. Praying at the wailing wall.

Why they changed me isn’t relevant. The point is that I was changed.

Transformation

The process of changing from one thing into something else is metamorphosis. It’s also known as transformation. Like liquid to steam or water to ice.

It’s also known as sanctification.

Sanctification

It’s a religious word, meaning to be sanctified, or to sanctify. It’s found about a dozen times in the New Testament.

Examples

When I got a head cold, my mom filled the vaporizer with water, put some Vick’s Vapor Rub by the spout, and turned it on. Within minutes, I was able to breath much better. It was fantastic.

The water changed into steam. Because it changed, I was changed.

console-steam-vaporizer-250x250

Biblically

At its core, sanctification is making holy what is unholy; make righteous what is unrighteous. It’s the ministry of God. 

The Change

Jesus hasn’t just affected my life. He’s more than an influence or a new idea. Because of him I am a new creation and filled with the Spirit of God, it’s his gift to me.

Spirtiually, I’ve been sanctified.

To Close

God made me holy, for I was unholy. He made me righteous, for I was unrighteous. These changes didn’t happen by my goodness, but by his, by his tender mercy. 

It’s called sanctification.

Shalom

Pt 11: Twelve Days of Christmas

It’s early Christmas morning and I’m the first one up. 

Christmas Traditions

I’m always the first one up. I light the candles, get a fire going, and crank the AC down because we live in Houston. Then its coffee and carols. And then it’s my daughter, coming out in her pajamas to sit with me by the fireplace. She’s 27 and married, but she still likes to begin Christmas with her dad, as she’s done for many years. The rest of the family will be out soon and the presents, stockings, and wrapping will all be front and center.

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For Mary and Joseph?  

Christmas morning was different for them. They made it to Bethlehem, an exhausting trip, especially for Mary. As they approached the village, they surely were looking forward to a warm room and a comfortable bed. But it wasn’t to be, for the inn was full.

Did the exchange go something like this:

Inn Keeper: “I’m sorry folks, but we’re booked solid.”

Joseph: “You don’t understand, we’ve traveled for days and my wife is expecting. You must have something?”

Inn Keeper: “Well, it isn’t much, but you’re welcome to stay out back with the sheep, donkeys, and camels.”

Joseph: (looking at his exhausted and very pregnant wife) said, “Okay, we’ll take it.”

It Was Time

Mary was in labor. Was it a difficult delivery? Did she have any help or was only Joseph by her side? She probably didn’t have her mom or any help at all.

But the Savior was born. I imagine Joseph cutting the cord and Mary swaddling him in strips of cloth. The infant king nestled in his mother’s arms. All of heaven was in joyous celebration; with the angels singing in glorious praise.  

It was a silent night, a holy night, a night adorned by a brilliant star in the east. At long last, after thousands of years, God made good on his promise, he came to be with us.

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581_810_500_55_s_c1

To Close

It’s early morning. It’s just me, a perfectly lit tree, and my perfectly beautiful daughter. The fire is crackling, the coffee is fresh, and the carols are softly playing.

It was a very different experience for Mary and Joseph. But it all started with them. They brought the Savior into the world and his coming was good news of great joy. He came because we needed him. We still do.

baby-jesus-mary-joseph-by-dewey

It’s Christmas morning.

Merry Christmas

Pt 9: Twelve Days of Christmas

What criteria did God use for selecting the Messiah’s mother?

The Usual Things?

Was he looking for a sweet personality? Perhaps a top tier, upwardly mobile, highly intelligent woman? Did those things matter? Were there other considerations?

Other Considerations?

The Messiah had to come from the tribe of Judah, of the line of David, and have a virgin birth. He would be called a Nazarene, so God needed someone from Nazareth, and Nazareth was a very small village. How many virgins, from the tribe of Judah, of the line of David, could there be in Nazareth? He only needed one.

Was There Something Deeper?

Gabriel told Mary some incredible things. He said that God favored her and that she would deliver the Holy One, the son of David. That she would be with child and yet remain a virgin. That the power of the Most High would overshadow her. Can you imagine? Most of us would have fainted on the spot. But not Mary. Her response was,

              “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said.”

Was that the deeper quality God was searching for, a submissive spirit?

Amazing Strength

The Messiah’s mother would have to be incredibly strong. Do you remember what Simeon said at Jesus’s dedication?

                    “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

She watched her son be beaten and scourged. She heard the insults and hateful words She witnessed the hammering  of spikes. Did she wince when the old rugged cross settled into it’s resting place, with a sudden and violent thud? Probably not as she wouldn’t have wanted Jesus to see her pain, only her love.

She bore his cross with her head held high. Only a mother could do that, and maybe not every mother.

Mary was an amazing person, she had to be. She was heaven’s choice to be the Messiah’s mother, she was the choice of God.

The Bible

In Closing

I think Mary was smart, gifted, and beautiful. But God’s criteria had little to do with such things. He was looking for a gentle and quiet spirit, for a deep well of inner strength, and for someone with unimpeachable character. He found her.

This Christmas, let’s be thankful for Mary. For she embraced the most difficult challenge of all. She gave birth to her son and then raised her son to die.

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581_810_500_55_s_c1

Thank you Mary.

Merry Christmas

Pt. 6: Twelve Days of Christmas

The Lord sent a messenger to tell the Christmas story. Then the story was given to other messengers. I love the idea of God sending the message of his son to the world.

An Illustration

My grade school had a milk program. Each day a kid was picked to be milk monitor for his class; and it was a big deal. The honor was earned and awarded, and occasionally, it was awarded to me. It felt great to get the milk. I was appointed, I was the messenger; because of me people got milk!

God’s Messengers

God had messengers. On the night of Jesus’ birth, he sent an angel to share the good news of great joy, that a Savior had been born. The angel gave the message to some shepherds who immediately went to Bethlehem to see the new born Messiah. It’s a great story.

cole-angel-shepherds

The Shepherds

They weren’t Priests, Rabbis, or Pharisees. They were simple, ordinary men, probably poor, uneducated, and nothing special. Except they were the first to see the Christ. Think about it, God chose keepers of sheep to see the new born savior. And where did they find him? In a most ordinary place, a place that was nothing special. They found the Messiah in a covered stall used for draft animals.

shepherds-field

The New Messengers

Do you think the shepherds told anyone what they had heard and seen? The scripture says they went out and told everyone. The angel came with heaven’s glory to share the message with shepherds reeking of sheep. Then the newly minted messengers went out and told the world.

I guess God decides what makes a man special.

To Close

Being milk monitor was pretty good. But not as good as seeing the infant Messiah and getting to share the news. I think the shepherds turned out to be pretty awesome messengers. Theirs was the message of angels, the message of God.

“Today, a Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.”

Merry Christmas

Pt 5: Twelve Days of Christmas

Typically, illustrations portray the three wise men kneeling before Jesus, along with angels, shepherds, a donkey, and some sheep and camels. The nativity scene. But who were the Magi?

nativity-scene4
Typical Western Portrayal of The Nativity

A Fascinating History

 In the first century AD, the Magi were scholars, astronomers, and philosophers. They were also missionaries and priests. They traveled to learn about the faith of other cultures. It’s believed they had the writings of Daniel; from the Jewish exile in Babylon, and it’s possible that they were partly Jewish, again, from the time of the exile. They would have revered Daniel’s prophesies, and handed them down to each generation. It would explain their reason for going to Jerusalem. The Magi’s visit was a proclamation to Jerusalem, and to the world, that the Lord’s Messiah had come.

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581_810_500_55_s_c1
More Historically and Culturally Accurate,  But Not The Wooden Box Manager

Then There Was Herod

By contrast, there was wicked King Herod, a descendant of Esau and Ishmael, not from David. He had deft political skills, was voraciously ambitious, and was a visionary architect and builder. In fact, his political ambitions superseded all sense of morality. He had three of his sons put to death and even executed one of his wives. He was a wicked man and a wicked king.

As a ruse, Herod sent the Magi to find Jesus, saying that he too wanted to worship the new born king. Of course, he wanted to kill him. But the Magi out foxed Herod, and the whereabouts of the infant Messiah was hidden from him, the most powerful man in Palestine.

The Wise and the Wicked

The wicked one sought to kill to protect his fragile empire. The wise ones wanted to worship the King of Kings, to lift him up, high and exalted. Herod the megalomaniac, tolerated no rivals and easily exterminated anyone who got in his way. The wise men brought gifts, beautiful and meaningful, to honor the infant Messiah. They gave gifts to Jesus.

On Christmas Eve

Children will leave milk and cookies for Santa. Christmas morning, parents and grandparents will have gobs of gifts for the kids. That’s the Christmas I know and love.

But what will Jesus be given? Will it be loving devotion, a heart-felt moment of praise? I guess the answer depends on whether we are more like the wise or more like the wicked.

To Close

Let’s answer this question: What gift does Jesus most want from me?

Merry Christmas!