Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

A few weeks ago, after a long fight with dementia and old age, my grandma, Patricia Barner, passed away at the age of 84. She lived here in Florida with my parents and hailed from the great state of Michigan (like me). My dad was tasked with officiating her memorial service to be held in Michigan and he invited me to open. My brain went to work imagining myself in front of a large group of people at the ceremony and what I would want to say. I conceptualized what types of people would be there, having a relationship with, away from, or at odds with Jesus. Then, I crafted, really contrived, what I felt they needed to hear with a heavy emphasis on getting back into right relationship with Jesus. I thought, “What better a place than a funeral where everyone is standing at the edge of eternity contemplating a lost loved one and considering the ramifications of our lives on forever?” This was reminiscent of my childhood when I would pretend to be Billy Graham on TV in front of a large stadium of people speaking to the whole world!

Holy Spirit helped me put the brakes on my train of thought. I cleared my mind and together we asked the Lord what He wanted me to share at the ceremony. Proverbs 10:7 ESV reverberated in my spirit, “The memory of the righteous is a blessing . . . “. Then, thoughts began to flow like a river in my mind, a sure-fire sign to me that I have tapped into what God wants me to share (Lauren Daigle shares more about this flow) . . .

The memory of Grandma Barner is a blessing. I remember spending every Christmas at her house as a child. She used to bake ham with spiral pineapples and cherries on top, make warm sugar cookies, and wrap the most perfectly packaged presents. I remember going to her cottage in northern Michigan and particularly the set of brown lazy boy chairs she and Grandpa Barner would fill to watch Detroit Tigers baseball games. She clipped from the Detroit Free Press the article when Verlander threw his no hitter to send me. I lived in Harrison and didn’t get the big city paper. Verlander is/was my favorite Tiger (I’m a bandwagon Houston Astros fan right now and I am waiting patiently for my Astros hat to come in the mail to help me cheer for them in the World Series). Grandma would fuss at the Tiger managers and bemoan the bullpen. I remember her telling Cecil Fielders and more recently his son Prince Fielder through the TV that they wouldn’t strike out so much if they would lose a little weight! She had this sweet chuckle and you knew she was really tickled when you’d get a northern drawl of “Oh dear!” The last few years Grandma and my wife had talked about teaching. Grandma was an elementary teacher for most of her adult life and my wife has her teaching degree. The memory of Grandma is a blessing.

All this remembering causes me to remember another person. Thousands of years ago Jesus Christ died on a lonely cross for the wrongs you and I have done. He rose from the dead and is alive today offering to forgive us and walk with us today and for eternity. All He asks is that we make Him the center of our lives. That is a decision I have made and I believe Grandma Barner made.

I remember Grandma Barner and her memory is a blessing. I also remember Jesus. Because of Him today doesn’t have to be the end and instead can be just see you later.

Becki, Daniel, Becki’s mom Pam and I went up to Michigan a few days before the ceremony to visit my old stomping grounds (see below). At the ceremony on Saturday instead of sharing MY thoughts, I shared the thoughts the Lord and I put together. Family and friends laughed, cried and listened intently as WE shared.

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Life has changed dramatically for Becki and me with the arrival of our firstborn son on Feb 17th. Time has sped up. The last four almost five months have been a blur. If I thought we had a laundry monster living in our house dispensing mounds of contaminated clothes before, I was sadly mistaken! How can one little baby produce so much dirty laundry?! I now know special meanings for and have poignant memories of the words “latch”, “frenectomy”, “rash”, and “spit-up”! In this flurry of laundry and learning, this new stage in our lives, Scripture has come alive as God has answered prayers and provided for us over and over again.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_6d62Since arriving home from the hospital, we have discovered that all of our furniture is not conducive to baby feedings and snugglings. We did some recon research and set our sites on a glider at Babies R Us. Distressed wood, charcoal gray padding, locking mechanism, it screamed us. If we opened a credit card there we would save 10% which meant a nice savings based on the size of the price tag. We loaded our family into our mini-van (strange for this new daddy to type that phrase!) to buy our prize. As we pulled out, I prayed that God would guide us and give us favor. We were greeted at the store by a sign saying instead of 10% the discount was 30% for the day before and the day we arrived.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_6d63Ephesians 3:20 Amplified, “Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us”

Psalm 37:23 King James Version, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way”

Two weeks ago, completely out of the blue, Regions bank sent us a large check in the mail to refund overpayment into our house’s escrow account. This was my first time hearing of or seeing a check like that. A week later I woke up with a random tooth ache. The next day my dentist told me I needed a root canal (props to the strength of that decay to wreck such havoc as to cause a root canal in one day’s worth of pain). I believe God knew we would have the expense of a root canal so He put things into motion well before we knew to get a large refund check in our hands right before being told.

Isaiah 64:24, “It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.”

God is good. God is powerful. God is able. God is faithful. God is love. God is omniscient. Etc. Etc. It has thrilled me to watch Him demonstrate His attributes on the stage of our growing family. Put your trust fully in Him and watch what He can do on the state of your life.

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.