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I like crossword puzzles. I like filling them out, as long as they aren’t too hard, and I really like finishing them. I get a feeling of satisfaction about doing something and doing it all the way to the end.

Sometimes, though, I disagree with the guy who created it. Might be the hardness of the overall puzzle, might be a place where I would have picked a different clue, or every once in a while the theme of the puzzle. Sometimes I just get bothered at the guy.

Then I realize it’s his crossword puzzle, not mine. He gets to choose the size, the contents, the clues, everything. It all belongs to the creator.

And then, God, as He often does, draws me to the spiritual application. It does all belong to the Creator. He *is* the guy. He gets to choose everything. If He chooses to write ten laws to show how perfect He is, and what He wants us to live up to, and which we can’t, it’s His choice. And if He wants to send His only begotten son Jesus to die on the cross because I can’t follow ten simple rules, it’s His choice.

And that’s what He did – and that’s what we are celebrating with the wafer and the juice. The body and the blood of a perfect man – the one who did His life’s crossword puzzle all the way to the end. And He didn’t use a pencil. He didn’t even use ink. He wrote out the answers in His own blood, and He did it perfectly.

Let’s pray. Father God, You are the creator of all things. You made us with free will, and every one of us chose wrongly. So, as part of Your perfect plan, You gave us Jesus. Thank You for the answer to everything. It’s in His name I pray, amen.

(communion meditation for 2017-12-03)

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Today marks the 500th anniversary of a Catholic monk rebelling.  I don’t know if the door of the church at Wittenberg was red, black, natural, or “other”.  It was capable of accepting Luther’s 95 Theses, and that’s what kicked off the whole Protestant Reformation.

I don’t have a lot to say about it (the Reformation, not the door).  I’m glad it happened, and I’m pretty sure that Brother Luther wouldn’t recognize what the church has become.

Rather than spend a lot of words saying nothing, I’ll point to Wes King’s commentary.

A week ago, back when it was still summer, Bettie and I stood outside at 2AM and watched the Orionid meteor shower. We didn’t stay long, and it was chilly, but we each saw a couple shooting stars. Fun.

In the week before that, around the middle of October, I was still seeing lightning bugs. Not flying around, but resting on the ground. That’s the same way I saw them back in February, which was extraordinarily warm this year.

The two events aren’t related, not directly. One looking up, one looking down. One fast, one very slow. One cold (a dirty snowball, except for at the very end), one doing much better in the heat of high summer rather than either cooler end.

But they are connected. As James Herriot quoted, “The Lord God made them all“. I’m in that bucket, and so are you. We are all creatures, created beings, and we have a Creator. Rather, He has us. What is He going to do with us? It depends on what we do with Him.

I’ve seen a lot of death recently. A coworker’s husband lost both his mother and his father this year. Another coworker lost his teenage son unexpectedly. A third coworker died from cancer after winning a serious battle against another disease. One of Bettie’s former coworkers, younger than she was, died a week ago. The end of life came for each of them, and it’s coming for me. Not a dire announcement, just a recognition that we’re all going to die eventually.

And after that comes the judgment. We’ll be judged on how we lived our lives and spent the blessings we have been given. I have been very blessed, from my parents being who they are to growing up in a family of faith, from attending a church college to finding a wonderful wife, from losing my way to finding solid ground and a well-grounded church and pastor. And still, though I am not perfect, the blood of Jesus makes me so in the eyes of God the Father.

I don’t know what led you to this site. I encourage you to think about your past, and your future, and eternity. Pick up a Bible and read the book of Romans. Take your time, make the investment, decide what matters.

I did, and it has made all the difference. In the world and the next.

I have been thinking lately about how I see things. Not visually, not the optics of my eyes, but how things go together. Where do they fit? What is the framework?

Usually, and unfortunately, my framework is too small. That might be in distance, in money, or in time.

Here’s an example: you’re walking down the street and you see a twenty dollar bill. You go over to it and pick it up. It’s your lucky day! Now expand the framework – that twenty dollar bill is out in the middle of the road. Different factors apply – maybe you wait for traffic to stop – a red light. More to consider, and maybe you don’t get that money.

Different situation: instead of getting something good, you avoid something bad. Nobody likes pain, and none of us would stick our hand in a fire voluntarily. But each and every one of us would rescue a child who had fallen into the fire. The bigger picture of saving a life overcomes the knowledge of imminent pain.

Hebrews 12:2 says about Jesus “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

And Jesus knew the pain, the shame that was waiting. In Luke 22:42, Jesus prays to the Father: “Take this cup from Me”.  It was going to hurt, physically and spiritually, more than we could ever know.

Jesus knew that imminent pain, and He knew the ultimate glory. He saw the biggest framework – eternity.  He paid the price to keep us from the fire of hell. We celebrate his death and resurrection now with the wafer and the juice. Let’s pray.

Father God, I thank You for Jesus, His perfection, His sacrifice, His example. It’s in His name I pray. Amen.

 

Communion meditation October 15, 2017

 

I’m going to read a part of a verse of scripture.  This is Jesus speaking, from Matthew 6:9.  You will recognize it.

This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father”

That’s short, but I think you will recognize this from the Lord’s Prayer, or the model prayer.  Jesus is talking to His disciples, and through the scriptures He is talking to us.  He is also talking to His own Father.  Though this is only two words, I think there is some deep meaning here.

The first word is “Our”.  Jesus could have said “My Father”, and he would have been right – God the Father is the father of His only begotten Son, Jesus.  Jesus could have said “Your Father”, and that’s right also, because He is our Father.  But Jesus used “Our” – He included Himself with us – He was fully human while being fully God.  He lived here, on this earth.  He was one of us.  And now He wants us to bond together, so that the “Our” still applies.

The next word is “Father”.  Again, Jesus could have said “Our God” and been correct.  He could have said “Our Lord” – but He didn’t.  He said “Our Father”. A father brings relationship.  A father implies family. A father is many things: a creator – and yes, God the Father is a creator.  A father is a protector.  King David knew this – Psalm 28:7 says “The Lord is my strength and my shield”.

A father is also a provider for his family.  God provides for all our needs.  Luke 6:38 says “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” God provides spiritual blessings as well.  He provided the greatest gift of all, the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. And now we are celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection with the bread and the juice.  Let’s pray.

Father God, thank You for being our Father.  Thank You for all of the Fatherly things You do, and thank You for Jesus.  He is the perfect gift – You provided exactly what we need. It’s in His name I pray, amen.

Communion meditation for 2017-08-13

I like animals. I try to be kind to them and take care of them. Even bugs, though I do kill mosquitoes. There are limits to my kindness.

Back when we had one of those heavy rains, we had some worms up on our carport floor. They were escaping drowning, getting up where it was drier. But they stayed longer than they should have – the rain stopped, and things started drying out. Good for people, bad for worms. They were getting all coated with sand and dust, and from their worm perspective, they couldn’t see that they were headed IN to the center of the carport, instead of out towards the cool, moist grass. They were headed to their death.

Then I stepped in. I had the benefit of height, and hands, and perspective. I could see and do things they couldn’t even imagine. I plucked a piece of grass, slid it under the middle of the worm, picked him up, and carried him to the grass. Well, that was my plan. The worm started wiggling and trying to escape, turning into a worm-ball that wasn’t working with my plans.

I finally got him, I think by using two pieces of grass. As I’m walking my rescued worm to the grass, I’m talking to him. “Mister worm, I’m only trying to help you. Won’t you cooperate, please?“

Later on, I started thinking about Mr. Worm, and Mr. Steve, and God. About the many times He has rescued my life, physically and spiritually. About the times He has spoken to me – I know the plans I have for you. He leadeth me beside the still waters. And about how hard I can struggle against doing what is best.

And I’m sure that God wishes I would just trust Him and do what He says. That’s what Jesus did – nevertheless not My will, but thine – and the outcome of that obedience is what we are celebrating now. I invite all Christians to partake of the wafer and the juice, symbolizing Jesus’s broken body and shed blood. Let’s pray.

Father God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for His sacrifice and for His example, and His resurrection. It’s in Jesus’s name I pray, amen.

Have you ever been talking to someone and then you realize they aren’t there? They walked out of the room or something, and you didn’t know it.

This week I had a discussion like that – a disagreement, really, and with a guy who lived 400 years ago.

John Donne was an English poet, back in the early 1600s. He was the one who said “no man is an island” – yeah, he would have fit in with the inter-connectedness of everything now-a-days. That isn’t what I had a problem with.

He also said “every man’s death diminishes me”. We have had several deaths recently, including Starla’s mom just this week. Now I understand what he is saying – there is a loss each time someone breathes their last.  That’s true. But he used the word “every” – not some, not most, but every. So that has to include Jesus, who was fully man, while being fully God. And what I disagreed with, talking to the man from 400 years ago, is that Jesus’s death actually enhanced his life – and mine – rather than diminishing it. Yes, there was very much pain and suffering on the cross. I am sorry that Jesus had to suffer so, and I am terribly sorry that He had to do it for my sins.

I am also glad that He did, and my life is enhanced in uncountable ways because of Jesus’s death, and I will spend eternity in heaven because of that death. If that isn’t an enhancement, instead of a diminishment, I don’t know what is.

As all Christians take the bread and the juice, let us remember that death – and that resurrection. Romans 14:9 says “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”  Let’s pray.

Lord God, thank You for sending Jesus to pay the price for our sins – for my sins. Thank You for His death, and thank You for His resurrection. It’s in His name I pray, amen.

(communion meditation for March 26, 2017)

I did a very non-scientific study recently, of love songs on the radio. After removing all the Oooooohs and Babys and Yeahs, I was left with these three themes:

  • I will always love you
  • I will never leave you
  • We’ll be together forever

Now I’m not a scientist. I don’t even play one on television. But I see a common thread in those. And I know the reason why. Believe it or not, it’s God.

Laugh if you want, and considering some of the stuff they play on the radio, God doesn’t seem to enter the picture. But Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has put eternity in their hearts“. These people are trying to replace God with something that won’t last. Human love is wonderful – it’s a gift from God! – but it isn’t eternal, regardless of what the songs say.

But Godly love is eternal, because it doesn’t depend on humans. It depends on God, who never fails. In Romans 5:8, it says

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

That’s true love, eternal love. It says “I will always love you, I will never leave you, and We’ll be together forever”. That love, that sacrifice, is what we are celebrating with the wafer and the cup. Let’s pray.

Lord God, I sometimes imagine you up in heaven, looking down at our silly efforts to fill that God-shaped hole in our lives with something besides You. Thank You for providing for that need, in the person of Jesus. It’s in His name that I pray, amen.

(communion meditation for January 8, 2017)

Jesus Christ was a rebel.

In reading through the Bible, I find three places where he defied what people thought He was “supposed” to do.

When Jesus was twelve years old, he skipped out on going home to Nazareth after His parents brought Him to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem.  They looked for three days to find Him.

Later in His life, He was at the temple again, and instead of worshiping and singing hymns, He made a whip out of what was available and started beating up on some businessmen.

Right at the end of His life, he prayed to His Heavenly Father, saying that He didn’t want to do what was next.

Rebellion, pure and simple.  And the events are true – but they are also a lie, because they don’t tell the whole truth.  They don’t go far enough.  They don’t include the spiritual. Let’s look at these events from a spiritual perspective.

As a boy at the temple, Jesus wasn’t being disobedient – He was being obedient to His Heavenly Father.  He told His earthly parents “Didn’t you know I had to be about My Father’s business?”.

At the temple, when he drove out the money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals, He said “Get your things out of here!  Stop turning My Father’s house into a shopping mall!”  And the disciples remembered the scripture “Zeal for Your house consumes Me”.

And there, at the end of His life, He did ask for that cup to be taken away from Him – and He continued, “not My will, but Thine be done”.

Jesus was not rebelling.  Jesus was being obedient to His Heavenly Father – and that led to His death and resurrection.  That’s what we are remembering now, with the wafer and the juice, which all Christians are invited to partake in.  Let’s pray.

Lord God, Jesus didn’t do anything at all that was outside of Your will.  We have all sinned and fall short of Your glory.  With Jesus’ sacrificial death, the price for those sins has been paid.  Jesus’ body and blood, represented by the elements of communion, are the price of obedience.  That infinite cost, that priceless gift for us – thank You.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

(communion meditation from November 20, 2016)

My communion meditation for today.

I was happy, then I was sad, then I was very happy.

First, I thought I found a new proof for God’s holiness and perfection. I was praying through the Lord’s Prayer – not just repeating the words, but praying it, chewing on it, meditating on it. “Our Father, who art in Heaven“ – and that’s where I stopped to think. God the Father is in Heaven – that’s what it says. And we know Heaven is perfect, so therefore God must be perfect.

I was pretty proud of myself for a few days. A new proof that God is perfect, from little old me. Pretty proud of myself, yep.

Until I started thinking of the implications of that. If God needs Heaven to make Himself perfect, then God must not be perfect on His own, and I know that’s not right. So therefore it must be God’s perfection that makes Heaven perfect.

BOOM – there goes my brand new proof, my shot at being included in theology books going forward. So I was sad.

But as I kept on thinking about it, rolling it over and looking at different perspectives, I was really happy. Because when I bring it down to a personal level, I don’t have to be perfect for God to come live in my heart. In fact, I can’t be that perfect. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“.

It isn’t my perfection that spills onto God. It’s His perfection that fills me, that spills into every part of my life, that overflows onto others.

There was only one perfect man, and that was Jesus. His perfect and sinless life, His death on the cross, and His resurrection – that is what we are celebrating now with the wafers and the juice. My imperfection covered by His perfection.  That makes me very happy.

Let’s pray.

Lord God, it’s all about You. If you had not sent Jesus to die for me, I wouldn’t be here today. Thank You for creating a perfect plan, carried out by a perfect man – a plan that does not depend on my own unachievable perfection. Thank you for Jesus. It’s in His name I pray. Amen.