My wife attends the University of West Florida. As a student card carrier (nautilus card), she has complimentary access to the UWF Fitness Center. This is a sprawling complex, a candy store (or should I say a fruit and veggie stand) for fit and becoming fit people. Amenities include basketball courts, locker rooms, exercise machines, free weights, cardio machines (including scary stair climbers – my calves shake in fear), and climbing walls. Becki has free access because she has a student card.

Climbing Wall at UWF Fitness Center

Climbing Wall at UWF Fitness Center

Gym On at UWF Fitness Center

Gym On at UWF Fitness Center

In January, we paid for me to join (perk of being married to a very cute Argonaut).  My wallet now holds a nautilus guest card and I have access to the candy (or fruit and veggies). I take full advantage, usually visiting twice a week to get my gym on. When I approach the check-in gate a twinge of panic presents itself because I’m not a student and I don’t feel like I should be walking in with students. Then, I pull out my nautilus card, swipe it through the id scanner and sashay in. Panic passes and confidence comes. I have access because I paid for a guest card.

A place exists infinitely greater than my new fitness center. This place is not greater because of its amenities but because of its occupant. This occupant is the source of all things, ruling the cosmos with absolute authority and plenary power while being the very definition of love. This occupant is God Almighty and this great place is His throne room. An insignificant speck of dust like me has no business entertaining thoughts of seeing this great place let alone entering. Forget panic, that is pure poppycock. Jesus Chris, God’s Son, paid for me to have a card called salvation that grants me access. By accepting the gift of this card, not only am I granted access to this great place but also into this great God’s family. Every time I pray, I can confidently come in and call God Almighty my heavenly Father. I have access because Jesus paid for a son card.

Hebrews 4:16 (NASB) Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

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I like candy, normally dark chocolate but occasionally I’ll branch out and go for Skittles, especially in purple bags. When I pop them into my mouth, I struggle to know if I should chomp them up or suck them dry. If I chomp them up, my taste buds get instant gratification and my instinct to chew is pacified. If I suck them dry, the flavors are allowed to linger in my mouth and self control triumphs over instinct. The Skittles struggle is real.

Often, I approach God’s word with a similar struggle. When I open my Bible (usually my Bible app nowadays), I struggle to know if I should chomp passages up or suck them dry of meaning by taking the time to consider each concept. If I chomp them, my spiritual taste buds are tickled and my sense of ritualistic duty is satisfied. If I suck them dry, the concepts linger in my spirit and my relationship with God is strengthened. Well, I know I should suck but far too often I chomp.

Take John 3:16 for wpid-Photo-Dec-8-2012-445-PMexample. The reference can be seen in a variety of places – under Tim Tebow’s eyes, church signs, t-shirts and even in a Star Wars parody (which is awesome). When I was in Bible college, I did some street evangelism and met a man drunk as a skunk (I wonder where that expression came from) who quoted John 3:16 to me. The vast majority of Americans have chomped on John 3:16, but how many have sucked it dry?

John 3:16 is an external example, but what about you and me? Do we give in and chomp our way through scriptures or do we suck them dry? Too often I settle for chomping. With the Lord’s help, I will suck!

Matthew 5:18 ESV, For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

A few weeks back I accompanied my wife to her UWF campus (she was a PSC Pirate but now she’s a UWF ARGonaut) so she could attend a teaching meeting and I could hit up the gym. We were on time for her meeting but an hour early for the gym. So, I decided to run, well actually jog but I like to think of it as running, on the campus.

UWF Nature Trail

UWF Nature Trail

I ended up on a nature trail that snakes its way through thick forest areas of the campus. At one point I was completely submerged in forest behind and in front. I felt absolutely alone. A snake in the leaves by the path and a frolicking squirrel were the extend of the animal life I had seen, but I imagined a more ferocious creature bounding out of the forest with a fancy for some Joshua flesh (yes, a little extreme but it sounds good). That thought didn’t help the aloneness I felt.

At that moment Someone else joined me on the trail, not visible with my human eyes but certainly with my senses. I felt an ancient, confident, powerful authority surround me and at the same time a soothing, reassuring, calming peace settle me. I felt the words, “This is a son of God,” echo around me. God my Father, the creator of that UWF walking trail forest and every creature big and small in it, made himself known. I felt His loving ownership over me. I felt His authority and peace.

Then, as if waking from a dream, I snapped back to “reality”.

Psalm 139:5 NASB, “You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me”

Psalm 139:5 The Message Paraphrase, “I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too – your reassuring presence, coming and going”

Luke 4:41 (NIV), “Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.”

This passage and others like it boggle my brain. Jesus was the Messiah (Savior), the Son of God. Why silence a public declaration of the truth about himself. Well, I guess if a demon said I am the greatest Crossy Road player in the world I would want to silence it since demons are notorious liars.

Okay, but because He was the Messiah, Jesus healed and yet He told some He healed not to tell anyone. At one point, a group of people wanted to make Him king but He snuck away to the mountains. It’s difficult to make someone a king if they can’t be found!

Some background is necessary to understand Jesus’ seeming madness.

The people of Jesus’ day read the Old Testament and expected the Messiah to overthrow the Roman government and become a political ruler. They longed for the days of domination and prosperity under King David and Solomon. For anyone to be called a Messiah would illicit these thoughts.

Jesus came with a much different paradigm on Messiahship. For Jesus, the Messiah would not rule over people politically but instead give Himself up for the world in selfless sacrifice. Along the way, Jesus invited others to join Him. Jesus wanted to redefine what being a Messiah truly meant His own way and He didn’t want demons or people putting Him in a box.

For the most part, the people of Jesus’ day said, “No thank you.” They wanted THEIR Messiah not THE Messiah. They wanted to accept a Messiah on their own terms not God’s. Thankfully, a small band of disciples did accept the Messiah and the movement grew from there to encompass Jews and Gentiles a like.

I think many do the same today. It’s easy to put the Messiah in a box of our own terms. We want a God who will give forgiveness without lordship and grant fancies without loyalty. This type of Messiah is often declared in today’s world. That is a far cry from the path Jesus took.

If Jesus walked the streets of today, I wonder if He would silence demons who called Him “Savior” again?

Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”.

I choose to follow Jesus as THE Messiah today. Will you join me?

Sources:

McClaflin, Mike. 2013. The Life of Christ in the Synoptic Gospels An Independent Study Textbook. Fourth Edition. Springfield, MO: Global University.

Stein, Robert H. 1996. Jesus the Messiah: A Survey of the Life of Christ. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Last weekend my wife and I took advantage of great Pensacola fall weather by getting our surf fishing on. I thought I would share our experience in a photo blog. Are those called plogs?

Our fishing location, letter H at Johnson's Beach.

Our fishing location, letter H at Johnson’s Beach.

My lovely fishing buddy

My lovely fishing buddy

A sea turtle who has a taste for bait shrimp waving to you! We promptly put him back in the water after this picture.

A sea turtle who has a taste for bait shrimp waving to you! We promptly put him back in the water after this picture.

Two keeper size whiting

Two keeper size whiting

We were treated to one of the Lord's spectacular sunsets

We were treated to one of the Lord’s spectacular sunsets

Becki, my mom and I lined up at the brand new Chickfila on Navy Blvd early Wednesday and camped out for 24 hours up until the grand opening Thursday. We had lots of fun and earned free Chickfila for a year!

All of us Wednesday morning

All of us Wednesday morning

Becki, Figment and me

Becki, Figment and me

Our camp site

Our camp site

Grand Opening in 1 Day

Grand Opening in 1 Day

We won!

We won!

On a few occasions people driving by bellowed out of their vehicles, “Get a job!” One person in particular showed off his hand dexterity by holding only his middle finger up while shouting. Maybe that’s an acceptable greeting on his home planet but not around here!  It offended me. It angered me. It made me think those people are ignorant and rude.

I happen to have a job and took a vacation day to be at the camp out.  They were reacting to the situation without knowing me or my life at all.  And, if any of them profess to be Christians, I think their gospel is complete poison.

The Lord turned the situation around on me. How often do I do the same thing by judging situations and people in my life without knowing the people or their lives first. It’s so easy to think homeless people are bums who need to get jobs, to criticize and condemn politicians, to look down on those without Jesus as they do wrong things, etc. When I do, I’m no better than the guy who flicked me off at Chickfila. My Christian example is shot and I’m causing offense and anger.

With the Lord’s help, never again!

Thursday off from work meant early morning fishing

Thursday off from work meant early morning fishing

Choppy gulf waters murky as sweet tea

Choppy gulf waters murky as sweet tea

We ended up catching 16 catfish including this big one.

We ended up catching 16 catfish including this big one.

We also caught this sea turtle

We also caught this sea turtle

We had a chat while I got the hook out

We had a chat while I got the hook out

Looks like Crush from Finding Nemo!

Looks like Crush from Finding Nemo!

We caught a second one right before we left

We caught a second one right before we left

Parents Outside Theater

Parents Outside Theater

Recently Becki, my parents and I watched Noah at a local theater. We went into it not looking for a Biblically accurate account but instead hoping to be entertained, and we were not disappointed. Afterwards, as I pondered the movie, I realized that I am Noah.

Humanity had become completely corrupt except for righteous Noah. God decided to pour out His wrath as a ferocious flood. God called Noah to build an ark out of gopherwood. Humanity bore God’s wrath and drowned while Noah and his family were saved to start again.

Humanity (including me) became completely corrupt again except for sinless Jesus. God decided to pour out His wrath as death. God called Jesus to build an ark out of the wood from His own Roman crucifixion cross. Jesus bore God’s wrath and died while humanity and I were offered a chance to be saved to start again.

Because of Jesus I am Noah!

Sunrise Prayer Jog Selfie

Sunrise Prayer Jog Selfie

Recently my wife and I vacationed in Daytona Beach. I would be starting a morning shift at Regions bank upon returning home (a very different environment from church work), so we decided to get up early during vacation to prepare my body. I leveraged that time to take sunrise prayer jogs along the beach.

During my jogs the tide would be going out dramatically (a fifty yard difference or more from high tide), leaving behind a thin sheen of water on the beach and a host of jellyfish stuck in it. Apparently, during evening high tide the jellyfish drifted far up on the beach and as the tide ebbed out they would linger and get stuck.

Beached Jellyfish

Beached Jellyfish

Seeing the scene, I thought of myself as a jellyfish in life, following the Lord into the world and reaching out to those in sin. If I’m the one influencing those in sin, I picture myself being far up on the beach during high tide. If I become influenced by and settled into sin myself, I imagine the tide ebbing away and myself lingering far up on the beach. Before I know it, the Lord’s Presence has gone out to sea but I’m left helplessly stuck on the beach.

Going into a ‘secular’ job at Regions this thought is key. I feel called by God to be at Regions at this point in my life. I have followed Him onto the bank ‘beach’ and I need to follow the Spirit’s lead in reaching out to those stuck in sin while not getting stuck myself.

Genesis 13:12 NIV, “Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom”

My wife and I went out to the beach for some shark fishing

My wife and I went out to the beach for some shark fishing

Recently my wife and I went out to the beach (Perdido Key Public Beach Access #2) for an afternoon of shark fishing. Well, I went for shark fishing and my wife came in support of me. Our friends David and Sara Sewell joined us. By shark fishing, I mean catching small fish

Sewell's pointing out dolphins

Sewell’s pointing out dolphins

from shore with shrimp, rigging the fish up on big hooks, kayaking them out well past the first sand bar into the gulf, and returning to the shore to wait for a shark to hit.
At first we didn’t catch much of anything with shrimp, so I used a frozen Lady Fish I had from a previous fishing trip as shark bait. Something hit but quickly dropped it. When we brought in the bait we saw teeth marks gashed in the fish, but of course away from the hook.

Fishing with shrimp for shark bait

Returning from kayaking out sting ray bait

Eventually, we caught live bait – a sting ray small enough to fit in my hand. I hooked it up for shark bait (monofilament leader with a circle hook the size of my index finger bent) and paddled it out. Sting ray has traditionally been prime time shark bait.

Reeling in sting ray shark pole at dusk

Minutes turned into half hours and then hours with no sharks. David and Sara left. Sunset came calling. Becki and I decided to leave the shark pole out while simultaneously packing up. Nothing. So, I dejectedly began to real in the sting ray shark pole. Darkness was beginning to replace the sunset so I quickened my reeling. I imagine the sting ray was zipping through the water.

Then, it happened. Something large hammered my sting ray. The drag began to release and scream. I set the hook with a yank. Shark on! Becki came down from taking a load to the van and aided with her iPhone light. The shark fought hard and ran up and down the beach. After half an hour’s fight we landed the shark, a four and a half foot blacktip!

We snapped pictures. I picked up the shark by the tail for one picture and looked down in time to see it bending its body and nearly taking a chunk out of my calf. “Wow!” I exclaimed while quickly pulling it away from my leg. After the pictures I released the shark back into the water. What an unexpectedly great way to end a fishing trip!

Fighting the shark

Fighting the shark

Shark fin in the water

Shark fin in the water

"Wow"

“Wow”

Hugging the shark

Hugging the shark

4.5 Foot Blacktip Shark

4.5 Foot Blacktip Shark