The Town Garbage Dump?

I don’t know why but boys between the ages of six and eleven love a good pile of junk. It’s the stuff people set out to be collected or the free treasures found in a town’s garbage heap. I would joyfully take junk home to our garage. Dad understood but not for long.

“Ricky, what are you going to do with all that junk,” Dad would ask? “I don’t know, maybe tear it apart and build something?” ” Throw it away by Friday,”  he would say.

Throw it away? I just got it from someone who threw it away. 

OUTSIDE OF TOWN

All kinds of things can be found on the edge of towns, outside city limits. There are small town trash heaps, unwanted stuff at the dump, and all manner of dilapidated sheds and crumbling barns filled with rusted but interesting stuff. 

You know what else you could find outside of town? Well, if you were in Jerusalem around 33 AD you could find Jesus on a cross. It was Passover and the important people who deeply resented and passionately hated Jesus were busy getting the Romans to kill him. They succeeded.  

“And so Jesus also suffered outside the city to make his people holy through his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the city, bearing the disgrace he bore.” Hebrews 13:12-13

He was crucified outside the city so as not to contaminate the Jews with dead bodies and Roman rituals. They wanted to remain undefiled in order to participate in their most holy feast: Passover. 

Here is a favorite of mine by George Macleod:

“I simply argue that the cross be raised at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a Cathedral between two candles but on a cross between two thieves; on a town’s garbage heap.

At a crossroad so cosmopolitan they had to write his name in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek; at the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where he died. And that is what he died for. And that is what he died about.”

FROM SCRIPTURE

If you read your Old Testament you’ll discover that the Kidron Valley, between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives, was Jerusalem’s garbage dump for idols and all things related to idol worship. It’s where idols were crushed, broken, and burned. It’s where unwanted things were thrown away. 

ARCHAEOLOGY

In 2013 and 2014 archaeologists from the Israeli Department of Antiquities did some excavation in the Kidron Valley and discovered a massive rubbish site dating back to the Roman occupation of Israel. The Kidron Valley was Jerusalem’s garbage dump.  

The Bible

IN CLOSING

Jesus died outside the city and it was possibly in or near the Kidron Valley. It would make sense because his enemies thought him a false teacher, false messiah and a blasphemer.

To them, Jesus was a piece of unwanted trash to be thrown out with the garbage. 

Was he?

Shalom

Day One: Twelve Days of Christmas

Day 1

Have you ever lost a child? Ever had to search for your child?

When The Kids Were Young

We took separate cars to church. I would leave early and the family would come later. It worked fine. But not the Sunday when my wife left after church, thinking our son was coming with me. I walked in the house, she looked at me, and said,

“You left him behind?”

I went searching and found him at the Father’s house, he was still at church.

And Jesus?

At age twelve, Jesus was no longer a boy, but transitioning to manhood. Culturally, if he had learned the Torah, he would be rewarded with his first trip to Jerusalem for Passover. He was with Mary, Joseph and the caravan as they traveled to the temple.

Afterwards, returning home, they realized that Jesus was missing, that he wasn’t with the caravan. So, Mary and Joseph went back to look for him, probably walking all night. Imagine how worried they must have been, and afraid.

They Found Him

After three days, they found him in the temple courts, with the Rabbis, who were amazed with Jesus. Mary and Joseph were less amazed and more astonished. They were upset with their first born.

Jesus in the Temple Courts

Mary said,

“Son, why have you treated us like this? We have anxiously searched for you.”

Jesus said,

“Why were you searching, didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  

But they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand that his being in the Father’s house was being about the Father’s business.  

His Father’s Business

Before he ascended, there was a resurrection, a tomb, a cross, and a ministry. There was time in Egypt. There were shepherds, wise men, and a violent, ruthless King. There was a virgin birth. All of which were the Fathers’ business.

In Closing

Jesus was never lost, and frankly, didn’t need his parents to find him, but we understand why they did. He wasn’t lost, just moving forward to the time when he would be the one doing the searching, the one who would seek and save the lost.

TheNativity (600 x 300)

Merry Christmas

Twelve Days of Christmas

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Is it really? 

It’s What The Song Says

Do you know Edward Pola or George Wyle? Probably not? But you know a song they wrote,

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

They published their song in 1963, and that same year Andy Williams recorded it on his Christmas album, cleverly entitled, “The Andy Williams Christmas Album.”

Some Of The Lyrics:

“With the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer.”

“It’s the hap-happiest season of all, with those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings when friends come to call.”

“There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

carolingwp
Not my typical Christmas, not even close!

A Wistful Carol?

It describes the Christmas I always want but never have. It mentions parties, friends dropping by, and gay happy meetings. And don’t forget the marshmallows and caroling. Sounds wonderful. It should, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

 Truthfully, Christmas isn’t like that for me. It’s often rushed, harried, and stressful. There are deadlines to meet and too many events to attend. The kids aren’t jingle belling, nobody’s dropping by and there’s no snow for caroling.

Am I A Scrooge?

Nope, I love Christmas. It just can’t live up to the hype. The song portrays an experience  beyond my reach. For me, the beauty of Christmas is found elsewhere.

It’s found in the birth of Christ. My Christmas is a blend of the bible story and our personal traditions.

During the year, I’m all about his death, burial, and resurrection. But in the holiday season, I’m all about his birth. I lift him up, high and exalted, for coming to our world.

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.”

To Close

I live in Houston, so I probably won’t be caroling in the snow. However, I will be celebrating and thinking how the universe must have shivered in awe as God came near in the infant King.

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Over the next twelve days, I’ll blog the Christmas story, beginning with his childhood and moving back to the night of his birth.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Merry Christmas

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

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!

“3,180 Times a Minute”

I was recently in the Colorado Mountains where I was attacked by an animal.

Attacked?

The mountains are no place for a soft, urban, city dweller. But I went anyway. There is always danger from the animals:

  1. The American Black Bear
  2. Mountain Lions
  3. A charging Bull Elk
  4. The North American Chipmunk (don’t laugh)
  5. The Rocky Mountain Snow Wolf

What Happened?

I didn’t see it coming. You must never let your guard down when out in the natural world. Before I knew it, I’d been attacked.

I reached to feel my leg and my hand came back covered in blood. By covered I mean there was a little on a couple of fingertips.

My friends heard me cry out, “ I’ve been attacked.” They saw the blood and the fear in my eyes, and instantly looked for the threat, but it was gone.

They administered first aid, they got a damp paper towel from the kitchen. I expected a gash, or something worse. No, just a tiny puncture mark. It didn’t hurt. I was brave.

My Friends

My friends said, “Rick, you’ve been victimized by a rogue hummingbird.” And I said, “You’ve got to be kidding?” And they said, “Nope, it’s rare, but it happens. You’re wearing a red shirt and they are attracted to red, and probably confused your white city leg for a feeder.” Uh huh.

Ruby-throated_Hummingbird_c34-2-027_l_1
Not the hummingbird that attacked me, but close, really very close.

I was attacked by a tiny bird flapping its wings at 3,180 times per minute.

I was okay, it could have been an angry wolverine, but it wasn’t. However, my leg had been pierced by the sharp, pointed beak of a confused, rogue bird. In the wild, you can’t drop your guard for a moment. 

To Close

Just to end with something worthwhile, I was reminded that Jesus was pierced too. He was pierced in his hands and feet, and his head and side.

From Isaiah 53:5

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Shalom

Officially Done With Summer

I’m officially done with summer. The first day of fall was Thursday, September 22 and I’m finished with the season of high heat and oppressive humidity.

It Isn’t Really That Bad

Although the days can routinely hit triple digit temperatures with humidity in the high 90’s, still, it isn’t really that bad. Just do the following:

6-ways-to-beat-the-heat

  1. Stay indoors.
  2. Set the AC as low as you can afford to pay.
  3. Air condition your garage so your car stays cool.
  4. Stay indoors. 
  5. Think cool thoughts.
  6. Don’t go outside.

See, it that so hard?

My Top Five Summer Issues

  1. Can’t breath in the heavy, damp air.
  2. Sweating the moment I walk outside.
  3. The love affair mosquitoes have with Houston.
  4. The swamp like environment from torrential rain storms.
  5. Did I mention the heat and humidity?
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Not My Street Or My Egg, But Its Close

There Are Some Advantages

  1. If you need a steam bath, just sit on the back porch.
  2. The grass, shrubs, and trees don’t typically need much watering.
  3. You won’t need a jacket.
  4. From April to November you won’t ever shiver.
  5. Did I mention the steam bath?

Give Thanks In All Circumstances

That’s a phrase from the apostle Paul. He wanted believers to understand that regardless of the circumstances, there was always something to be thankful for. He was right, there is, even in the hottest days of summer.

So: “Good Morning Holy Spirit”

“Thank you for indwelling me and for keeping me connected to the Father. Please help me today with your fruit of joy, for there is joy in believing, and there is joy in Jesus our Messiah, Amen.”

Still….

I’m officially done with summer.

Shalom

The Small Injustices of Life

It’s about eight months. That’s how long I’m forced to wait from the end of college football to the opening day of the new season. 

800px-Ben_Hill_Griffin_Stadium

Then It Happens

Opening day finally arrives. For me, it’s like a national holiday. I clear my calendar, finish my meetings, and run my errands. Then its game time. I’m fanatical about watching my favorite team, but really, just about any game will do.

Then It Happened

Opening day was just days away. We had recently moved to a new house, I’d called to have service transferred, and guess what? They went to the old house. Don’t ask. They rescheduled the installation for a week later. I missed the opening game.

Then It Happened Again

The next week, I got the satellite hooked up, but a rain storm hit that Saturday afternoon, and it hit hard, and I missed all of the first half because of weather interference. Uh huh.

Not Again, Right?

It happened again. My game of the week was severely abbreviated by a technical difficulty. Okay, I may have caused the difficulty by accidentally cutting the cable, but it’s a common problem that has probably happened to millions. Or at least to me. Either way, no game.

cordcutting-100535448-large

So after impatiently waiting for eight months, I’ve missed all or most of my favorite team’s first three games. And lots of other games too. Was I being punished for my sins?

I’m Not The Only One

I’m reminded of others who missed out on some things. Zechariah and Elizabeth  prayed for a child until they were too old to have children. Then they had a son,  John the Baptist. Abraham and Sarah waited and waited and pretty much gave up. They tried a different plan through a surrogate mother, but it only resulted in great conflict when Isaac was later born to Sarah.

The Apostles were impatient for a kingdom that they believed would exalt them to the top.

Was Elijah impatient, waiting by the brook, and then stayed for three years in the upstairs room of the widow’s house? Did he wonder if God would ever use him?

Even Jesus

Even Jesus got frustrated by his disciple’s arguing, their lack of faith and their impatience with the constant demands of the huge crowds. 

To close

Sometimes the smallest things can cause our biggest frustrations. But I’m sure there are bigger issues, greater injustices, and more important challenges than my missing a few football games.

super bowl

So I’ll close with:

“Good Morning Holy Spirit. Please forgive me if I have been preoccupied with petty issues. Please help me today with self-control, patience, and faithfulness in serving the Father. Help me to honor the King of the Kingdom of Light. Amen.

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.

Some Assembly Required

Good morning Holy Spirit. Greeting the Spirit has become a pleasant practice. Each day, and all day, I require his help to produce good fruit. Some of those fruits are patience and self-control. The Spirit helps me, guides me, influences me, but he doesn’t force.

Here’s What Happened

I had a project last night. A piece of furniture was delivered and printed on the box was, “Some Assembly Required.” Uh Huh.

“Some Assembly Required,” was code for blocking out 3.5 hours, reading the directions dozens of times, and for sticking my patience to that sticking place, for I would be sorely tested.

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Not Me Or My Project, But Close

First Of All

The directions were in French and I don’t read French. Okay, they weren’t in French but they might as well have been. The assembly involved multiple thousands of screws, dowels, cams, cam screws, reinforcement brackets, shelf pins, shelves and all the stuff that holds the shelves. From 5:30-9:00 I was invested: heart, mind, and soul.

Did I Finish?

Yes, I did. It was a fun project and I enjoyed doing it and it gave me a real sense of achievement. Just kidding. Actually, it was frustrating and I nearly lost my religion over it. And I missed Monday night football. Okay, it was a game I didn’t care about but it was on TV!

Some Perspective: What Would Jesus Do?

Jesus was a builder, a carpenter, and he could have assembled it in 30 minutes or less, and not be grumpy, and still watched the game. But I’m not Jesus.

We used to ask the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” We had all kinds of WWJD paraphernalia. The fad passed but the question remains. I don’t know if he assembled cabinets or not but here’s a few things he did:

  1. Lived a perfect life in obedience to the Law of Moses.
  2. Honored his father and mother.
  3. Grew up in stature, favor, and wisdom with God and man.
  4. Was immersed in dedication, preparation, and holiness.
  5. Received the Holy Spirit.
  6. Went into the Judean desert and triumphed over evil.
  7. Trained disciples to disciple the world.
  8. Healed thousands and fed tens of thousands.
  9. Sacrificed his life for all mankind.
  10. Rose from the dead.
  11. Ascended to the Father.
  12. Sent the Holy Spirit.

By Comparison

I guess by comparison my little project seems pretty small. I guess compared to Jesus, all our projects are pretty small. He’s pretty impressive.

Ask Jesus how he prepared men to take the gospel to the world. Ask him to explain living a sinless life. Ask him about the cross, eternity, and the providence of God.

Crossing The Finish Line

Aren’t we glad he did all of that for all of us? Aren’t we glad he paid it all, finished the race, and completed the Father’s will? Of course we are.

house tools

Some assembly required, good morning Holy Spirit!

Have a nice day.