Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Way Up is Down

Douglas Frank Photograph

The Way up is Down
Last Sunday the triumphal entry with Palms waved in patriotic ovation for a coming King to overthrow the Romans. They did not understand the prophesy from Zechariah 9:9 (John 12:13-14) “Rejoice, Oh daughter of Zion…see your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt the foul of a donkey.” Palm branches were like our patriotic eagle or Canadian maple leaf. This Messianic movement was coming on a donkey! Even the rocks will cry out!

It was now Passover (Lamb blood sacrifice for sins of the world) and Jesus was with the 12 in the Upper Room and knew He was about to leave the world. He was showing the full extent of His love. The evening meal was being served and the devil had already prompted Judas. Jesus got up and washed their feet, half naked and kneeling before them like a slave/servant (Aaron’s Blessing- God kneeling before us to bless us, catching our tears in His hands (Ps 56:7)).

Jesus Christ, Son of God, second person of the Trinity, Lord of the universe, humbled Himself and washed His disciples’ feet. This wasn’t a seminar on foot washing. It was an example of humble service, an acted out parable of intimate humility, against Peter’s and our pride and self-will that required the death of the Savior on the Cross-that they would understand after the Resurrection. I think Jesus knew they were already cleansed because they were at one with Him and His Word of redemption and Love, as if He had been crucified already.  Jesus said,“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. “For I have given you an example (Mandatum), that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14–15, ESV).
So what does that mean? Let’s not let the applications slip into something retouched and generic. Let’s be specific and consider five, necessary brands of humility—actual things we can do. What are the verbs that should be flowing out of our lives?
1. Choose a difficult obedience. Not run-of-the-mill obedience, actually some difficult sold-out choices that require sacrifice. We obey for Jesus Christ deserves everything, and it should cost us, it must cost us as disciples. What is the difficult obedience right in front of you? Run to it, wrap your arms around it, humble yourself, and obey Jesus. It will be good for your soul. Love difficult People, be patient, be willing to give your life for another.
2. Own it all to reconcile. Generally where there’s friction in relationships, there’s fault on both sides. But maybe you’re in a conflict with someone who can’t see his/her own fault and who won’t listen to you anymore, so you can’t reason with the person. If you want to work that out, humble yourself and own it all. Mother Theresa said, “Do it anyway!” Take everything you want to say, all your rightness and accuracy, and permanently file it under G for garbage, bury it out back. It’s easier said than done. Forego any opportunity to clarify your position. Lay it all down, and humble yourself. “I’m sorry that I hurt you. I never wanted you to feel this way. I know that I have responsibility in this, and I want to own it, tell how sorry I am, and ask for forgiveness. Grace will rush like a river upon you, freeing you from chains. Even if the person refuses you, grace will flow into your life. God loves humility. He loves it. With God, the way up is down. That’s how it is in the family of God.
3. Serve in total secrecy. Find ways to do things no one will know about or knows your name. Example: Rescue Mission preaching on my own sin.  It’s good for our souls and others.
4. Lay down a liberty. Too often we think the continuum runs between legalism and liberty. But legalism is a lie, so we don’t need to react against legalism by flaunting our liberty. In Christ, we have freedom and liberty, but when our liberty becomes an obstacle to the gospel, we need to forgo our liberty. We lay down our liberty for the sake of Christ’s kingdom. We don’t glory in our liberties. We don’t fail to love our weaker brothers and sisters. We live in liberty, but we gladly and willingly forsake freedoms for the sake of our influence over others.
5. Refuse to be offended. It’s so easy to take things personally. How dare they treat me that way! Instead refuse to be offended. I’m trying to give it up for lent.
             “I’ve asked the Lord to take from me
             the super-sensitivity
             that robs the soul of joy and peace
             and causes fellowship to cease.”
Do nothing when you’re hurt. Hurting people hurt people. If you want to break that cycle, get low. Humble yourself, and refuse to be offended. Jesus gave us an example that we would go do for others as He’s done for us. Which brand of humility do you need to practice today? 
6. Last Supper New Commandment-
So, when he (Judas) had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.  If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.  Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you.  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another”  (John 13:31-34).
So, Go and do it in the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit! AMEN

Friday, March 23, 2018

Sun Light

“They are like a well-watered plant in the sunshine, spreading its shoots over the garden” (Job 8:16).

This verse sounds wonderful, but it is talking of the person with faith in the wrong thing. It will eventually come to naught and be torn from its roots, which are shallow.

Sun is usually a symbol of life and healing as it is indeed in Malachi 4:2 saying, “but for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go and leap like calves released from the stall.” The image of the “Rising Sun” is of Christ, the Messiah coming into the world to shine His light. “Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).  This wonderful gospel track reflects the wonderful and popular Isaiah 9:2-3 Christmas passage “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy.”

The world is indeed in increasing darkness and needs light. “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).  He goes on to tell of how walking in His light bring fellowship with Him and one another. We can do this only by seeing and receiving the Light of the World, Jesus Christ into our hearts and walking in His way as my book This is The Way, Walk in it  proclaims.

Do you have images of God that come to you in sunlight? I find sunlight full of beautiful scenes like the following one from Montana near to where my son lives. It speaks of life and the challenges brought by the snowcapped mountains. But notice the mountain sunflowers that stick through the early spring permafrost to bring life to the post winter giving us incentive to keep walking.

Friday, March 16, 2018


As a hospital chaplain, I am on-call for people, patients, families or staff in crises needing spiritual or pastoral care. “That’s what we do” as the current saying goes. I never know when the beeper is going to go off. At present I am on weekend call, three nights and days of waiting for the call, staying alert.

Yesterday I was in a men’s Bible study discussing Mark 13. My New International Bible translation has a chapter break saying, “The Day and Hour Unknown.” What is it talking about? The passage deals with the end times and the return of Jesus Christ to rule and reign over the earth.  It says, Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come…Therefore keep watch…Watch!” (Mark 13:33,35,37). This passage tells us to be always ready and prepared to receive or go. What do we receive and where do we go? We are to receive Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives and go where He tells us to go.  It is the time to “Preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1). Yes He tells us what to do. That time is now as Jesus has already come to earth and given His disciples commandments to go and preach and heal in His name. That admonition is for all believers, but particularly for me as a chaplain.

I never know when the call will come. It might be a trauma call for the Emergency Department, bringing in injuries from a car crash. It may be a heart attack. It may be families struggling with the new diagnosis of cancer for a loved one. It may be that same loved one afraid of the uncertainty and not knowing what to do or think. It often is a staff member a little overwhelmed by the numerous very ill patients and their demanding families wanting answers or service immediately. The calls come at all hours and no one knows the time or place.

Over 45 years of being on-call I have become more accustomed to having to be alert and ready all the time. The adrenaline no longer runs constantly. I have learned to regulate my body and mind. Yet, I am still alert and watchful. That is what Jesus tells us to do. So being on call has now become a time to seek Him even more and be thankful and rejoice for He is near to those who call upon Him. I was particularly thinking this way this morning on my pre-dawn bike ride. The beeper and cell phone on my hip reminded me that I was on call. The bright stars in the dark sky reminded me that God is sovereign and that nothing will come to me that is not first been sifted through His hands. So I praised Him in song as I rode on.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Book of Collations

The word to collate means: to gather together information from different sources in order to study it carefully; or to arrange (sheets of paper) in the correct order.  It is a process kind of word. So it was fascinating to me recently when in one of my draft books a comment about the Bible book of Colossians, accidently was spell checked to be the Book of “Collations.”  It reminds me of some of the so-called spirituality that is arising nowadays. It often is a syncretic combination of faiths that comes out as some new religion.  

Peter, speaking of the times said, “There will be false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord” (2 Peter 2:1). Numerous NT passages warn of false teachers who are already present or yet to come. We read in 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when men will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” Well we have certainly come to such a time when not only tolerance for whatever someone believes is OK, but that each person should receive all as equal for there is thought to be no real or absolute truth. This relativism denies that founding principles of the United States as based on Scripture and Christians principles.  Ignorance of history has allowed for a misinterpretation of many time-honored beliefs.

The result of this syncretism is a weakening of our moral and ethical standards in the country. Of course behavioral decay goes with this trend.  Quotes from the Book of Collations would read something like, “whatever works for you” or “whatever feels good do it.” Misinterpretation of the Constitution and related documents on freedom of religion has been reinterpreted to mean “freedom from religion.” This tragic direction has been taken by the Supreme Court of American as well with its landmark decision of “separating church and state” and most recently allowing marriage to be between two persons. It does not seem to matter that 47 times in the Bible, which is the document that describes marriage, says it is between a man and a woman. Marriage is a religious state created by God, not the State.

So it seems that this Book of Collation has brought some collateral damage to foundations writings and beliefs. I personally will continue to use a Bible Concordance to find Scripture to help me understand when key principles are at stake.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Live in the Moment

Are you stuck worrying about what you said or did yesterday? Are you worried about tomorrow? Well, good company joins you. Yet Jesus says in the Sermon of the Mount, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes…who by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25,27). God is telling us throughout Scripture to live in the present and the presence of God, not the world. People and problems distract us continually. Yet, God is saying seek Him and His peace in His presence in the present moment. This is the message of the largest selling devotional, Jesus Calling, Enjoying Peace in His Presence. God’s voice is speaking to you in the moment. We need to still ourselves like Elijah to hear His still small voice.

God is pretty firm about this teaching. In James 4 we read about going about life on our own schedule. “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist (vapor) that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4:13-17). This is not saying to not go somewhere for business, it is saying, seek the Lord and follow His will, walk in His way continually. We do this through constant prayer as 1 Thessalonians 4:16 tells us. We stay in touch with God in all things with thanksgiving and praise.

Live in the present. One of my favorite pastors said this morning that he wants to make the most of every opportunity so he has even stopped taking photos of events, because he wants to be totally in them. The Serenity Prayer tells us to be in and enjoy and live in every moment. Part of this discipline is to accept the moment and not wish it presented as something else. “It is what it is” as is commonly said today.

I think some of us have trouble with being in the moment because we are afraid or feel guilty or even are shamed in it. This is serious stuff, because many of us are overwhelmed by the past and our circumstances and injuries. We might have been abused, or betrayed. Guess what? We all have been injured. We need to give it to God. Forgive and be forgiven. Shame may require some counseling to address and redefine. We might wish it would change, but “wishful thinking” is not going to change or improve it. We must address and deal with it, perhaps with help.

I have started living in the present. It took more than 70 years to accomplish. I have missed much of life because of my fears of the past and future. I have even been a nationwide consultant on Future or long range planning. I know we need to plan, but don’t let it take you from the present. I wanted out of myself and my fears or life of walking on “egg shells” as so many that grew up in homes with dysfunction and alcoholics. My transformation has been slow, but has come by the presence of the Holy Spirit within me. He has guided and counseled me as I have put aside myself and sought Him. Writing this essay or message has helped me stay more present. I can always do Spellcheck later.