The Meeting

There was a little tension that could be felt just before the meeting was about to begin. Two brothers sat opposite each other, each anxious to get the meeting going. There were others in the room also anxious, also feeling the slight tension.

The person in charge of the meeting passed out an agenda--each looked to his spot in the schedule, determining when they would give an update of their respective ministries. A short, sincere word of prayer was shared and the meeting was underway.

Distant words were shared about the budget and menial operating details when the war began.

"What will you say? Did you bring enough information to share? Did you do enough this past month? Have you seen any success, any progress? What will they think? What will they say? Will you have their approval?"

A beastly, otherworldy figure slid his arm around one of the guys and whispered in his ear, pointing to the guy across the table from him with his other arm. While the attack was a blatant attempt at division, it was almost completely unnoticeable to that guy in the meeting.

"Look at him. He thinks you're doing a poor job. He thinks you're no good. He thinks it's a waste to have you in this position over this ministry."

At the same time another figure had his arm around the guy on the opposite side of the table. He was a little different...his arm looked like a snake on his shoulder, but his motive was the same.

"Who does he think he is? He thinks his ministry is more important than yours. He thinks he's more important than you. But he doesn't even do that much. This church could definitely survive without him. You could do a better job than he does."

The figure seemed to almost spit on him as he injected lie after lie into the man's mind.

"Look at him. He's doing a poor job. He's no good. It's a waste to have him in this position over this ministry."


After the meeting was over, each man went to his car to go home, and each beast got in on the passenger side.

"He thinks you're no good. Did you see the way he looked at you as you gave your report?"

"He's no good. His report was crap."

And thus the battled continued. Each man tried to fight the sense that the other had a low opinion of him, but it was hard. It was near impossible. For some reason, although the lies were blatant, they were easy to believe. This war to cause division had begun, and the beasts settled in for a long seige. They knew all too well that if they fought long and hard enough, they could win over the humans.


Here's my sorry attempt to illustrate a spiritual battle where the enemy tries to bring division. I'm not sure if this is close to how it really plays out, but make no mistake, Satan tries to bring division among brothers and sisters in Christ. My guess is that it's a pretty big strategy of the enemy to get brothers to believe false things about each other. Extreme miscommunication occurs and we begin to assume this or that about our brothers and sisters. And usually what we assume about people is pretty negative.

Why bring division? Division causes us to become distracted from what really matters. The enemy knows that many of us have a pretty serious hang up about what others think of us. And if we're consumed about what others think of us, then we can become greatly distracted from the work that God has for each of us. Remember Peter and the little servant girl? She accused him of being a follower of Christ. And out of fear of other people, he denied Him. Could it be that he was afraid of what other people would think of him? Well, I don't know about that (I know he was scared because Jesus was about to be crucified and he might be next), but I can guarantee that many of the rest of us do have a problem with this.

Anyway, simply put, my warning is this: be wary of the lies of the enemy. Because although we may be able to discern them as lies, they are still extremely believable. Be wary of the division that he seeks to bring. That division can do a lot of damage.

WJS (also known as "BS," but I was encouraged to not sign my posts with these initials for obvious reasons)


A White Christmas

There was no white Christmas this year in Lagrange, Indiana. As a matter of fact, we have had very little snow so far this winter. It's actually kind of disappointing. My family and I usually hope for at least one "snow-in" each year, and so far this year we've only had about three or four inches.

There's been talk among the people with whom I used to rub elbows that Christ was not actually born during this time of year. Some say that He was born during October or even April. I really don't know that much about it. However, I am glad that we celebrate His birth during this time of year.

Having a white Christmas is, for those of us who believe in Jesus, a great reminder of His work. He came to Earth as a baby, grew up, gave a great example of how to live...but this does not encompass His full mission. His mission was death...and in dying, to bring life to all who would accept Him.

Having a white Christmas is a reminder of what that death has accomplished for us. That death was the full and complete payment for our sins. Having taken our sins upon Himself, we have been made righteous in the sight of God--there is no more sin, no more stain, no more imperfection--we have been made fully and completely white in His sight.

Seeing the snow fall on everything, covering all the dirty browns and grays of the season, brings joy during the Christmas season. And for those of us who have accepted this payment, this atonement, the snow covering all things dirty carries a weightier connotation--it reminds us of Him making us completely white, His grace falling on everything so gently, so beautifully, eliminating all vestiges of brown and gray. Surely this another expression of His great love for us.

Perhaps you didn't have a white Christmas this year either. But in another very real sense, you can have a white Christmas. All you have to do is believe in that sacrifice that Christ made. And your life also can be made white as snow. His grace will cover all things brown and gray in your life, fully and completely, in much the same way a snowstorm covers everything in white.

"After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands...." ~ Rev. 7:9




Merry Christmas

I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Let us remember to give thanks to God our Father for sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate gift to mankind. No other gift can rival this gift.

Consider these verses from Isaiah 9:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of [his] government and peace [there shall be] no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

"His name shall be called 'Wonderful'"....

Also consider the words of this hymn, which also came to mind:

His Name is Wonderful
His Name is Wonderful
His Name is Wonderful
Jesus My Lord
He is the Mighty King
Master of everything
His Name is Wonderful
Jesus My Lord
He’s the Great Shepherd
The Rock of All Ages
Almighty God is He
Bow down before Him
Love and adore Him
His Name is Wonderful
Jesus My Lord




Why Jesus Is Our Great High Priest

Here are my notes on Hebrews 5:

Chapter 5

V1-“taken from among men and appointed for men”-offers gifts and sacrifices
V2-Since priests are also “subject to weakness,” they can have compassion on those going astray—empathy
-they can say, ‘I know what you’re going through’
v4-This honor of being a priest is bestowed upon an individual by God Himself

~~These are the characteristics of priests in the established Levitical priesthood~~
~~They are meant to show some of the same characteristics of Jesus, our great High Priest~~

**This implicitly shows the full humanity of Jesus, our great High Priest**

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” - Heb. 4:15

This verse also came to mind: “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” – Heb. 7:25

-Make note of the phrase, “save to the uttermost” – this means fully and completely, without regard of any of our shortcomings – full, complete, comprehensive salvation from the entire scope of the curse

v5,6-Jesus’ call into the role of His great High Priesthood-full humanity-“Today I have begotten You” and full Godhood “A priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (who had neither beginning of days nor end of life, Heb. 7:3)

v7-10 – This is about Jesus’ experience on this earth, and how it has made Him the perfect High Priest (the perfect Mediator between Holy God and sinful man)

v7 – The days of His flesh-these are the times when He was subject to sufferings – It is because of these sufferings that He has been made (for lack of a better term) our perfect High Priest (see Luke 22:39-46 when Jesus, being in agony, prayed in Gethsemane. It was here that His sweat became as great drops of blood. It is this agony that allows Him to operate in the role of High Priest, being greatly compassionate toward us. Remember what it means to be compassionate; it means to ache for someone.)



We watch TV.

We play video games.

We email each other.

We watch movies.

We dink around on the internet.

We can virtually live our lives in apparent realities, which really are no realities at all.

What does this do to a person? What does this do to a collective society, where social norms are quickly and grossly eroded away? (Snippets of Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" quickly come to mind. Where do these grown men get the idea that having an illicit relationship with a teenager is ok?)

The other day at lunch we were talking about the impact that video games, TV, cell phones, and the internet have on young people today. We are the teachers; we are the ones that work with these kids day in and day out, hour after hour. And to be honest, when you think about it, it's quite scary what these non-realities can do to these kids.

Sure, we were talking about having to do the "song and dance" day after day just to keep these kids' attention. In the non-reality of TV, images change every few seconds, so the mind never has the chance to dwell (it never has the chance to think and reflect); it simply has to keep moving from stimulus to stimulus, processing a new image all the time. What does this do to the attention span of a student? It destroys it. In an entertainment-driven society, what does that do to schooling? It causes the student to view school as boring and a waste of time. The simple statement that this class or that class is boring implies that the student expects to be entertained.

However, what is more scary is the notion that these young people are actually incapable of discerning what is real and what is not; what is decent and appropriate and what is not; what is respectful and what is disrespectful. The stories started to come...'I heard about these kids that went out and killed these homeless people...and they didn't even realize how grossly wrong it is to take life like that.' And of course we remember Columbine and the various other school shootings that have taken place in this country.

Can it be that these non-realities can actually cause kids on a large scale to become socially retarded and morally bankrupt? Personally I would say yes....



What Kind of Rest?

So the Lord desires for us to enter into His rest by faith...what kind of rest is this?

Of course this rest refers to the rest that comes through Christ and His finished work on the cross. It is that rest from the penalty of sin. When we become keenly aware of our shortcomings, and we realize that we really have nothing to offer to God, we come to the end of ourselves. It truly is the death that the law administers. We are guilty, to be sure, and we know it all too well. It is at this point that rest and assurance come from our great High Priest Himself, as He says, "It is finished." In effect, He says, 'I took it all. It has been paid in full. Rest...rest, My child.'

It is also that rest from the authority of sin in our lives. Too often we as Christians put our eternities in the hands of the living God, trusting fully that He has delivered us from death and hell, but we don't trust Him for our "day to day." It is a little known (or little believed) promise of the New Covenant of grace that not only are we delivered from the penalty of sin, which is death, but we are also delivered from the authority of sin in our day to day lives.

Surely the death of Christ has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness...did you get that? He has given us everything for life and godliness. I am, by no means, making the claim that we can escape sin completely (that is, the attainment of what is commonly referred to as "sinless perfection"), as we are still in these bodies descended from Adam, but we can begin to see a consistent pattern of victory over sin. To those who would think that a certain vice will always have dominion over them I would pose this: just how comprehensive is the salvation of Christ? Is there anything too hard for the Lord? I would say no.

Let us therefore be diligent to enter into this rest that the Lord has provided for us: the rest from knowing that we are no longer condemned--not only being condemned to death, but living a life condemned to wallowing in sin. He can deliver us, completely and fully--will we believe?


Entering Into His Rest

Okay, everyone, back to Hebrews. Here are some rough notes and observations on the end of chapter 3. I'm sure there's more to it, but this is what I've picked up so far:

Chapter 3 (continued)

“The beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end”

We see this phrase (or at least two similar phrases) in this chapter in v6 and v14

V9-11 – This is a reference out of Ps. 95:7-11 that is looking back to the time when they refused to enter the promised land. The writer to the Hebrews is using that situation to teach them about the word of salvation which has been spoken to us by His Son.

This is a great spiritual parallel that teaches us about entering in His promised land, His promised rest (the rest from our slavery in Egypt, a type of the sin to which we were in bondage).

**Notice that this is about entering into His rest by faith (by believing Him).**

These folks were led out of Egypt and were on their way to the promised land (see Num. 13,14). The spies (except for Joshua and Caleb) brought back a bad word of the people of the land, and pretty much all the congregation of Israel complained, whined, cried about the whole situation. They said it would have been better to die in Egypt or the wilderness. They did not believe God that He could deliver this land to them. God referred to it as rejection and unbelief. They actually wanted to stone and kill Joshua and Caleb. This shows how sick we as humans are, and what kind of help we need.

**They refused to believe. Therefore, they did not enter His rest.**

The writer to the Hebrews uses this scenario to warn them to not harden their hearts to the Son and His word of salvation.

**If the Hebrews refused to believe in the Son, they also would not enter His rest.**

v16-“For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses?”

This “led by Moses” phrase carries deep spiritual implications.

For those who were led by Moses did not enter into the promised land; only those led by Joshua (a type of Jesus; even their names are similar) entered the promised land.

The end of this chapter and the beginning of the next seeks to set out to the Hebrews that entering into His rest occurs by faith. Not having faith is tantamount to disobedience.

The point? As the Son speaks this word of salvation (to all of us, not just the Hebrews) let us be careful to not be of the same spirit or mindset of those who were led by Moses out of Egypt. Rather, let us have the same humble, dependent spirit as Joshua and Caleb, having faith that God can give us that rest that only comes through His Son.

**Let us not harden our hearts. Let us humbly believe Him that we might enter into His rest.**


The Entitlement Generation

The other day I was talking to another teacher in my building about the typical woes of the education world, how that students today are not interested in working hard/thinking for themselves/taking pride in a job well done, etc., etc. He had mentioned that his brother-in-law referred to this generation of students (or perhaps young people in general) as the "Entitlement Generation." The idea is (and this theory plays itself out well, at least at my high school) that students aren't interested in working hard to obtain a good education; rather, they feel that they are entitled to certain grades and credits for classes without having to put forth any effort (or at least minimal effort, which translates into just "showing up") to earn these grades and subsequent credits.

Now, this certainly is not true for all students. However, the overriding mentality is that we as teachers owe them something. If the students miss a day, it is up to me to give them the assignment, the notes, teach an entire lesson to them at their convenience, etc. If they don't understand something it's my fault that I didn't teach it well enough. If they are bored with the class, it's my fault that I haven't done something (anything at all, including but not limited to, showing cool math videos (do any of these exist?!), thinking up cool projects to do (but if the projects require them to do complicated calculations then the project is not cool), doing songs and dances, bringing in candy, pop, cake, pizza, etc.) to make it "exciting."

Could it be possible that we as a culture have fostered this "entitlement mentality?" Is the "entitlement mentality" a function of today's American society? Have we really forgotten to show our children the importance of hard work, the satisfaction that comes from a job well done, the virtues of humility and politeness, and just the plain and simple notion of being a nice person?

I should probably say that I myself have been guilty of the same things, and by no means am I 100% qualified to point out the faults of our society, because no doubt, I am sure I've contributed to this quandary, at least in some degree. But it doesn't make it right. I know that at times, I feel like I'm entitled to this or that, but in reality (and here's where my Christian worldview comes in) I'm entitled to one thing: hell.

I really wonder if this "entitlement mentality" stops at 3:10, or if pervades every aspect of their (our) lives. My hunch is that it's a huge chunk of our American personalities (or more generally, our human personalities). I really wonder what that does to spirituality in America. I wonder if it makes their (our) receptiveness to the gospel of Jesus Christ basically nil. I would bet that it does.

This seems to me to be a situation well worth thinking about in greater depth....


Lighten Up!

Today I went to work (I'm a high school math teacher) and found my entire room had been TP'd.

A few weeks ago my homeroom class took it upon themselves to decorate the room for Christmas. I must say, the lights (some blinking, some not), the fake tree (with purple decorations and no star), and the "Happy Holidays" light are...oh should we say...a little on the tacky side. But it is festive nonetheless. And oh yeah, let's not forget the "Santa's Workshop" sign outside the door.

Anyway, I thought the TP job was performed by some nefarious foes, seeking to dampen our Christmas spirit with the dangling litter of toilet paper. After all, our "Santa's Workshop" sign has already been stolen (and returned) twice. And yes, they not only had spread toilet paper all around the room, and even around some of my calculators, but they also had hung the TP from the ceiling tiles--it was, needless to say, a mess; a mess that I did not want to clean up before school.

I got pretty angry about the whole thing. I found out about 20 minutes later that the plot had actually been carried out by members of my own chess club. My own custodian let them in, and a few of my colleagues had actually seen them the day prior doing the deed. As I thought about the whole thing throughout the day, I realized that I had overreacted. It was done in good humor. I should have left the mess (or should I say, the teens' morbid act of appreciation and kindness) for all to see throughout the day.

Then something else happened at lunch. I stepped into the men's room for a few moments, leaving my lunch on the table by the coffee pot. When I returned, I found my lunch to be missing. I actually thought, "Great...here I have another opportunity to overreact. Don't blow it this time." Sure enough, I blew it.

As it turns out, one of the other teachers hid it from me. As I went into another part of the office to locate it, it "mysteriously" reappeared where I had lost it originally. The other teacher thought it was funny; I didn't. After all, I only had 10 minutes left to scarf my lunch.

A couple of people got the best of me today. In our house when I was young we used to have a saying: "If you can't take it, don't dish it out." I learned that I need to lighten up sometimes!


Christ-Faithful as a Son

Chapter 3

V1-the heavenly calling-this is the word of salvation of which the Son speaks
V2-the Son was faithful, as was Moses, but receives much more glory than Moses
V5-this is what caught my eye this time-Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, where Christ was faithful as a Son over His own house

-who’s a part of His house? We are, if we hold fast our confidence and rejoicing firm to the end

-also, Moses was a faithful servant in God’s house, which was a testimony of the things that would be spoken afterward-what is it that has been spoken afterward? It is that word of salvation to which we ought to give the more earnest heed

should we give the more earnest heed to the word spoken through angels,or
should we give the more earnest heed to the word of salvation, spoken to us through the Son?

Heb 3:5,6 NLT

Moses was certainly faithful in God's house, but only as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, the faithful Son, was in charge of the entire household.

Moses-faithful as a servant in God’s house
Jesus-faithful as a Son in God’s house (or as the NKJV says, His own house, i.e, the Father and Son are one, Jn. 10:30)

See Col. 2:13-23, esp. v 17—these things are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ

Moses’ work was just a foreshadowing of that which was to come—Jesus is the fulfillment of all that the Jews had been waiting for. Moses and the prophets all pointed to Jesus. To the Hebrews, this was of critical importance. Moses wasn’t the end; the prophets weren’t the end. Jesus is the end. Jesus is the fulfillment. Remember ch 1:1-God spoke to us in various ways (through Moses and the prophets) but now has spoken this word of salvation to us by His own Son.

We are of His house by faith. Moses was only a servant in this same house.

Why is it important to show Christ’s superiority over Moses?


Crazy Shout Out

Ok, so I normally don't do this, but my flaming-cheese eating friend (it was the cheese that was flaming, not my friend) wanted to to give a crazy shout out to him and his out-of-date blog. To be honest, I don't know if his blog is even still up. Actually, he's not updating it on purpose in order to see just how long it will be before no one checks his blog.

So here's your shout, Scott!



A Merciful and Faithful High Priest

Here are some more of my rough notes on Hebrews 2.

Verse 9-Phil. 2:5-11
·This verse talks about Jesus becoming a man (being made a little lower than the angels)
·Jesus became man, thus becoming subject to death (although He was sinless, He laid down His life for us, that the penalty for our sins might be paid through His death)
·This becoming a man also allows for Him to know and live firsthand our curse (this makes Him the perfect High Priest, the go-between, or the Mediator between a holy God and unholy man)

Verse 10-“For it was fitting for Him…to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

What does it mean to make our Captain “perfect?” This is not a question of being “perfect” or sinless or holy as much as it is a statement leading up to the observation made in verses 16-18:

“For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

The perfecting of the Captain of our salvation (that is, His suffering on this earth) causes Him to be a merciful High Priest, and fully able to say with us, in His infinite compassion, “I know what you’re going through.” He is able to help us and console us because He knows exactly what we are going through.


I'm reminded of something I wrote in a previous post about compassion. Compassion is essentially where Jesus says, "I ache for these people."

With that said, and looking at this chapter about Jesus being a merciful and faithful high priest, I can see Jesus coming alongside us and saying, "I ache for you."


The Son-"Begotten Not Created"

Here are my rough, rough notes on my Hebrews study again. I've been thinking through why this writer is showing the superiority of the Son over the angels.

·The Son-“Begotten, Not Created”
·See Heb. 2:9-Jesus was made a little lower than the angels (He’s fully man)
·He’s fully man so that He could taste the fullness of death for us-PROPITIATION
·By the grace of God He tasted death for us-this is an expression of His grace

·The writer of Hebrews quotes several Old Testament passages regarding “the Son.”
·He is showing the Hebrews through the OT that “He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than [the angels]”

·Conclusion: While fully man, Jesus, the Son, is also fully God.
Chapter 2

·What does this mean for us? Heb. 2:1-We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard.

Verse 2-4: “For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?”

Here we see Jesus, the Son, the One who has a more excellent name than the angels because of inheritance, speaking of the salvation that comes through faith and grace. The word spoken through angels (see Gal. 3:19) was the law (the ministry of condemnation and death, see 2 Cor. 3:7,9), which had glory. But the Son, who is better than the angels, and has much more glory, speaks the word of salvation. The Hebrews to whom this epistle is written, even holding the law in high esteem, must give the more earnest heed to the word spoken of by the Son Himself, namely that of salvation through His grace. We must also give the more earnest heed to this word, for God speaks even now (see Rev. 4:5).

·Chapter 3 will speak more of Christ’s superiority over Moses.


Starting Hebrews

I'm starting out on the book of Hebrews. I thought I'd post where I am so far. I hope it's a blessing for you.

A Study of Hebrews

Chapter 1

·God is now speaking to us by His Son
·This indicates the fact that these are the last days-this is God’s final effort to redeem man
· Mat. 21:33-45
·The worlds were made through Him-Col. 1:15-16
·Jesus is the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His person-Jn. 10:25-30
·’If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father’-Jn. 14:7-11
·”Upholding all things by the word of His power”:
·This reminds me of the time Jesus calmed the wind and the waves-Luke 8:22-25
·”Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey
·Rev. 4:5:”And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”
·When He speaks, we must make every effort to listen. This means making a conscious effort to be mindful of what He is saying at any moment in time (have the eternal perspective). What is it that quiets the voice of God in our lives? Distractions. But He is dealing with His church; He is dealing with each of us individually. Will I listen to the thunderings?

Question to ponder:

Why is it necessary to show to the Hebrews (to whom the epistle is addressed) the superiority of the Son over the angels?

Some verses that came to mind:

Col. 2:16-19
Gal. 3:19

I’m still working on this one.



Giving Thanks - An Act of Humility

It's a beautiful Thanksgiving morning here in northern Indiana. It's pretty cold this morning, and the fog has descended, turning the landscape into a beautiful, white crystalline scene. My kids actually thought it was snow.

As I considered Thanksgiving this morning, I thought of a portion of scripture:

Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"
So when He saw them, He said to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" And He said to him, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well."


I know there are all sorts of major theological implications in this text, but for our devotional reading, notice what happens: there are ten who are healed, and only one comes back to give thanks. I encourage you (us) to pause and give God thanks today. It's important to give thanks to God for all our material blessings: houses, cars, etc. But wouldn't you agree that, in one sense or another, we were all lepers, and Jesus has healed us of the horrible disease that plagues mankind, namely sin and death? Let us give thanks to Jesus for His healing.

Notice also that this guy fell down on his face. I see this as another act of humility.

I guess the question is, is my heart the same as this Samaritan leper?


More On Humility

As I was considering this whole idea of humility, the following verses came to mind:

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." ~ Luke 18:9-14

Here we have the comparison between those who are arrogant and those who are humble. First of all, notice the attitude of those to whom Jesus spoke: they trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. What does it mean to "trust in yourself?" It means to put stock in yourself; to hold yourself in high esteem; to think highly of your own accomplishments and abilities. Jeremiah 17:5, 6 states, ""Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited." It's just a bad idea to have this kind of attitude. Sooner or later, you're going to get a wake up call that really you're not all that great. I get wake up calls like this a lot.

Secondly, notice who Jesus picks for His parable: a Pharisee and a tax collector. How did the Pharisee pray? He prayed with himself. Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but aren't we supposed to be talking with (and perhaps more importantly, listening to) God rather than ourselves? Clearly prayer for this guy was a way to pat himself on the back. Really, he was worshipping himself.

Check out the tax collector. First of all, he stood afar off. I wonder if this was because he wanted to be alone; to have a time of solitude before God, confessing his sin and taking care of business. His attitude of humility is best conveyed by his physical posture: his head and eyes were down and he was beating his chest. Have you ever had the urge to get on your knees as you pray? In heaven (see Revelation 1 and 4), they get on their faces like dead men. Have you ever had this urge? Finally, what does the tax collector say? He implores God for mercy. Notice that he doesn't try to bring his worthless righteousness into the picture.

Humility is hard to define. It's an attitude; it's a posture of the heart. It's a consistent lifestyle. Again, it's hard to define, but this tax collector knows what's up with regard to humility.

Questions to ponder:

Have you ever been so humbled that you won't even look to heaven during your prayer time? Have you ever beat your chest, bowed your knee, or laid face down on the floor before God?

**Remember, when I say, "you," I'm talking to myself too!**


The Master's Toolbox

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Today in church we were talking about the importance of finishing strong. We have been working for some time now on what it means to be an authentic disciple of Christ. Today was the last installment in that study.

We were studying the idea of each of us having a particular type of work we have been given to finish while on this earth. I was reminded of this portion of scripture (among others).

It all kind of reminds me of the idea of a toolbox. In my toolbox there are many tools: ratchets, sockets, extension shafts, screwdrivers, pliers, and other things. Each tool was fashioned for a particular use. For example, a hammer can be used to frame a house. A screwdriver can be used to tighten or loosen a screw. A socket can be used to tighten or loosen a nut or bolt. But if you try to frame a house with a socket, or if you try to tighten a screw with a hammer, you're not going to get very far.

The same is true in the body of Christ. We each have our function; and chances are, we may not be very good at other things. Another thing to note about the toolbox: there aren't any useless tools in my toolbox. There are no tools out there that do nothing; every tool has a function and purpose. The same is true in the body: there are no useless body parts. God desires to use each of us for His work.

So I guess what we should ask ourselves is this: what's our function? Where does God want to partner up with us in doing His work? Where is God at work, and how can I help? What tool am I in the Master's toolbox?


Let This Mind Be In You

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~ Philippians 2:5-11

Here's a neat little dissertation from the Bible on what humility is. Although Jesus is God, He decided to "make himself of no reputation." What does it mean to make ourselves of no reputation? It's the attitude that Jesus had when he put on the towel and washed the disciples' feet. What really should have been happening? They all should have been on their faces on the ground, being that Jesus is God (and there are instances where people worshipped Jesus in the gospels). But Jesus, setting an example for us, decided to wash their nasty, dirty, gross feet. I don't know if you've ever seen the feet of several men all lined up, but I bet it's pretty gross.

So I guess here's what we should think on:

Do you have reputation? Is your attitude such that you think others should serve you? Or, are you ready to put on the towel and scrub some gross feet? It doesn't sound prestigious or dignified, does it? So many of us in the church want prestige and dignity. But that's how the kingdom is run: on humility. After all, it's how the kingdom was initiated: by Jesus becoming a bondservant and washing our nasty, gross feet.

By the way, when I say "you," I'm including myself in that. I'm just as guilty as the next guy that wants prestige and dignity.



"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all [of you] be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." ~ 1 Peter 5:5

I like that phrase, "...be clothed with humility...." I'm definitely not an expert on being clothed with humility, but I still like the phrase. Why? Because humility is beautiful, and arrogance is downright ugly.

So what exactly is humility? What does it look like? How can I be clothed with it? Is it something that we can naturally produce, or does God have to work it in us? How does He do that?

I think these are some good questions to ponder. Thoughts anyone?


Don't Stop Playing

In his book Dangerous Wonder, Michael Yaconelli relays this story:

"There is a great story making the rounds about a well-known pianist, Ignace Jan Paderewski. His concert in New York had been sold out for six months. On the night of the concert those who came were dressed in tuxedos and fancy dresses. A mother brought her nine-year-old son because he was beginning to complain about his piano lessons and she thought hearing a great pianist might motivate him to keep practicing.

"You can dress a nine-year-old in a tuxedo, but he's still nine. Restless and impatient, he continually had to go to the bathroom and, much to the irritation of those sitting by them, kept walking back and forth. Finally the mother became exasperated, grabbed her son by the shoulders, and sat him down hard in his seat. 'Now stay there and don't move!' she said sternly. But a few minutes later, while the mother was distracted by the person on the other side of her, the boy slipped out to the aisle. The mother turned to see her son walking toward the stage, where a huge Steinway piano was standing. Panicky, she yelled at him to come back. Startled, the little boy panicked, ran toward the stage, ran up the stairs straight to the piano, sat down, and began to play "Chopsticks." People in the audience were furious.

"'Get that kid off the stage!'"
"'This is an outrage!'"
"'What is this boy doing here?'"

"As the startled ushers began moving toward the young boy, Paderewski heard the commotion and looked out of his dressing room. He saw the boy playing "Chopsticks." he quickly grabbed his tuxedo jacket, walked to the edge of the backstage area, and then stepped into full view of the audience. There was a collective hush. Everyone wondered what the great pianist would do. The boy, oblivious to what was happening , continued to play. Paderewski came up behind him, went down on his knees, and whispered in the little boy's ear, 'Don't stop. Keep on playing. You're doing great.' While the boy continued to play, the great pianist put his arms around the boy and began playing a concerto based on the tune of "Chopsticks." While the two played, Paderewski kept saying to the boy, "Don't stop. Keep on playing."


Sometimes we all wonder if what we do makes a difference, has an impact, is worthwhile. I know there are times we feel like bumbling, worthless idiots, but really, God doesn't see it that way. God takes our measly efforts and makes them into something special; He plays an incredible concerto around our childlike plunkings.


Beautiful Music

There are few things that I enjoy more than listening to great music. On the way home from work today I was listening to some Jeremy Camp that I have on my mp3 player. I've got a new car that has an mp3 jack in the dash that allows me to plug it directly into the sound system. All I have to do is hit "aux", push play on the mp3 player, and it comes directly through the car's stereo system. I love it!

It got me to thinking of this scripture:

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." - John 15:5

When we abide in the Father, we bear fruit to His glory. We don't have to strain to manufacture good works; as we abide in Him, He bears them through us. After all, for without Him, we can do nothing.

The Christian life is a lot like that mp3 player and my stereo system. Set on "aux", that stereo system will remain silent. It will never produce music of itself. However, if it's plugged into the mp3 player, all sorts of beautiful music will come through those speakers, bringing joy to the listeners.

We should stay plugged into Jesus, so that He may play His beautiful music through us.


Jesus:Moved With Compassion

I ran across this verse today looking for another one:

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." - Matthew 9:35-38

"He was moved with compassion...."

For some reason that phrase really strikes me as encouraging. You can really know something about the Lord by that phrase.

Ponder this:

Are you weary? Jesus desires to have compassion on you. Go to Him.

Do you want to be a laborer in His harvest? I guess He's looking for some people for the job!



I was checking out Acts 27:1-44 today. It's the story where Paul and other prisoners are being transferred to Italy, and during that transfer (it was too late in the year for sailing), they got caught in a storm that destroyed the boat and almost killed all of them.

This is what my devotional said: "Note: even while living in obedience to the perfect lead of Jesus, Paul experienced tremendous hardship." I thought that was pretty profound.

Two other scriptures came to mind:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." 2 Cor. 1:3-4

"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." Hebrews 4:15

Here are some observations:

1.) Even when following God, you can experience extreme hardship.
2.) While this extreme hardship is not necessarily "God's will," He can still use it for good, namely enabling you to help out others when they are going through tough times.
3.) Jesus knows what it's like to go through tough times because He walked this earth.

Questions to ponder:

Are you going through some tough times? If so, that doesn't mean you're not in "God's will."

Do you feel like a spiritual wimp because you are going through tough times? That's probably the enemy messing with you. God cares about even your "littlest" struggles. Maybe they seem like little struggles to other people, but Jesus has compassion on you in your situation.

Is God preparing you for something greater? Remember, if you bear fruit, He's going to "prune" you so you bear more fruit (John 15:2). Ouch! That sounds like it could hurt.


What Teaching Math Has Taught Me

~What Teaching Math Has Taught Me About Leadership~

So I've been thinking about this whole leadership thing for a few days, and I've learned a few things about leadership from my job at West Noble High School:

1.) Care about and love kids-you're like a shepherd to them
2.) Stop what you're doing and look kids in the eye when they want to talk to you. If you listen to them, they'll listen to you.
3.) Joke with them. Make them feel comfortable and safe in class. Be friendly. Make a connection with all the kids, especially the quiet ones.
4.) When calling on kids, say, "Yes ma'am, " and "Yes, sir."
5.) Be compassionate. Keep in mind they might be coming from a crappy home situation.

I'll bet you I can find all these principles in the Bible....



Acts 4:13:

"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus."

Peter and John were preaching in Jesus the resurrection from the dead with a great deal of boldness. If you take a look at this story, you can see that some 5000 men came to believe in Christ through their preaching. So all the elders, chief priests, and scribes were all ticked off about this and told them to give an account of what they were doing. And they did.

What is so encouraging is that Peter and John were being used so mightily by the Lord to advance His kingdom...and these were uneducated and untrained men. These were just normal, average fishermen. And do you remember what Jesus told them when He first called them? "Don't worry, for from now on you'll catch men." And here we see the fulfillment of Christ's promise to them (or at least one instance of it).

The reason that they had so much impact is the fact that they had been with Jesus. I can only believe the same is true for today. There is nothing that qualifies people more for leadership than that they spend time with Jesus Himself. Of course, if someone has the opportunity (and the calling), college can equip people greatly. But really, it isn't the college that equips; it's Jesus. People who spend time with Jesus know Him and His mission, and they accurately represent Him and His heart to a lost and dying world.

So I guess the questions to ponder are:

Do you spend time with Jesus? Do you know Him? Do you really know Him? (Jesus wants to hang out with you!)

Are you just an average, ordinary person? Do you want to have an impact for the kingdom? If you're average and ordinary, then you're a great candidate to impact the kingdom!


Cleaning Up Dog Poop

I sent this article in to Relevant Magazine. I don't know if they would be interested in publishing it, but I thought I'd put it on here for everyone (yeah, all those people that check my blog on a regular basis, yeah right) to see. Hope you enjoy it.


Cleaning Up Dog Poop: A Lesson in Servant-Leadership

By Bill Sines

Several weeks ago my wife and I stopped at an Amish house (we live in the heart of Amish country in northern Indiana) that had advertised by the main road that they had Shih Tzu puppies for sale. My wife had had a Shih Tzu as a young girl and had always loved this breed. So down the dirt road we drove toward the white house with several outbuildings.

When we got there we were greeted by the lady and her husband, and they proceeded to show us the puppies they had on site. We got the Shih Tzu puppies out of their pen and put them in the yard to play. My mother-in-law was there too, as she was looking to purchase one of these puppies as well. The dogs were pretty cute as they played with each other in the grass; they were clumsy balls of fur, falling all over each other and our feet. The Amish guy offered to reduce the price if we took two. So we bought two; one for us and one for my mother-in-law.

The thing is no one ever told me that such a little dog can produce so much in the way of fecal matter! We also have a 2.5 pound Yorkshire Terrier, and she sure doesn’t crap this much.

Now we’ve been working on house training this dog for some time now, and she still doesn’t have the hang of it. We’ve finally gotten her to go outside now, but she just doesn’t get the idea of going all the way out in the yard…yep, when we sit at the dinner table and look out on the back porch, we can see all the business she’s done for the past few days. It’s really starting to get gross.

So where is all this going? Well, in church today we studied Matthew 20:20-28. Consider verses 25-28:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave-- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

All this time, as I looked out back and saw all the crap on the back porch, in my heart I was saying, “I’m not going to clean that up. That’s my wife’s job since it’s her dog.” I realized at church today that I’ve had the wrong attitude. I’ve been thinking about my rights and how that I shouldn’t have to clean up that stupid dog’s poo. Really, it’s the wrong attitude.

In the kingdom of God it’s different. We should have an attitude of service; we should develop a reputation of servanthood. In this situation I knew what I should have have been doing all along—I should have been setting an example for my family by cleaning up that crap without complaining.

Awhile ago I saw an episode of Seinfeld where he was doing this standup routine about having to pick up a pet’s “business” in the city. He was saying that if aliens really were watching us from outer space they would look down on our planet and see all these beings following these other beings around picking up their “business.” They would say something like, “Yeah, we know who’s really in charge.” They would conclude that if some being could get some other being to follow them around and pick up their crap then they must be in charge. I thought that was pretty funny.

The truth is it’s really humbling to pick up animal poop. And that’s exactly what I needed. I needed a little pride adjustment. It’s important for us to remember what leadership is all about in the kingdom. It’s about service. It’s about servanthood. It’s about being last in a world where everyone wants to be first. The church definitely needs leaders like this. The church needs people who will take the lead in a servant role by picking up crap.



Better Than TV

I've always loved this picture. The kids are having a great time watching the sprinkler-that-looks-like-a-tractor out in the front yard. It's really hard to tell what was going through their minds at the time, but, at least for a moment, the sight of a little yellow tractor watering the lawn must have been better than TV. Can you see the comraderie between these pink angels? I wonder if it will continue when they're fighting over boys at prom time.


Jesus - Compassion Embodied

I was thinking on this whole idea of compassion again and was reminded of a certain story, found in John 11. Lazarus had died, and Jesus was on His way to Bethany to eventually raise him from the dead:

Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how He loved him!" And some of them said, "Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?" Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone."

Jesus saw the anguish that death brought to this household. He saw the sorrow and the weeping. And when He saw Mary and the Jews who were with her weeping over the situation, He groaned and was troubled. It pretty much broke His heart to see these people crying and broken over Lazarus's death. And do you know what's written here in the margin of my Bible? It's the word, "compassion." I can see here Jesus aching for these people. He cries for them in verse 35. Those Jews then said, "See how He loved him!" I don't know if they perceived that possibly He was crying for all these people...how that His whole creation was subject to sin and death, and that this broke His heart. Jesus was hurting because His people were hurting.

Question to ponder:

Are you hurting? Do you think Jesus aches for you because you are hurting?


One of my favorite verses is Revelation 21:4: "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Why is that? Because Jesus had compassion on us.



This verse came to mind today...I guess it's in keeping with the whole "compassion" theme from the last few days:

"Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, 'I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.'"

--Matthew 15:32

I really love that phrase, "I have compassion...." I have written in the margin of my Bible a paraphrase, which I think helps us catch a faint glimpse of Jesus' heart:

"I ache for these people...."

After saying this, Jesus fed those people.


A Psalm...

Ok, so here's a Psalm that I read in association with my devotional yesterday:

"The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.
The Lord is good to all,
And His tender mercies are over all His works"

-Psalm 145:8,9



A Song...

I had a song going through my mind yesterday and thought I'd share it with you:

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger and rich in love.

And the Lord is good to all,
He has compassion on all that He has made.

And as far as the east is from the west,
That's how far He has removed the transgression from us.
And as far as the east is from the west,
That's how far He has removed the transgression from us.

Praise the Lord, oh my soul, praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, oh my soul, praise the Lord.

I think whoever wrote the song took it from Psalm 103. Good stuff, huh?


He Calls Us By Name

John 10:3-4 states, "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice."

This text really blessed me today. Aside from the junk we get ourselves into, the Lord is there leading us and guiding us. What struck me most was this:

"...he calls his own sheep by name...." Think on that phrase for a moment. Notice the closeness and intimacy...although God has a universe to run, He has time for each of us individually. If He was here in body, I'm sure He'd look me in the eye, shake my hand like friends do, hug me, and say something like, "So what's up, Bill? How's it going? Tell me about your day...." We'd sit on the couch and talk....

And actually, if you think about it, He does do this kind of stuff. Now when we meet with Him it's not exactly a "face to face" meeting (although that's coming), but He does desire the closeness that we can see in this text.


Hi everyone, and welcome to Random Comments. After having gotten high-speed internet at my house, I have realized actually how boring the internet can be. You can only check your email so many times in one day (and if you have high-speed, that only takes about thirty seconds), so I've decided to enter into the blogosphere to check out a (relatively) newer dimension of the internet.

So your comments are welcome! Hope you have a great day! Check out the links to the side (I've been playing with editing html...does that make me a nerd if I enjoy that?)...