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Archive for December, 2011

 Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel? When the Lord restores his people,  Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice (Psalm 14:7 New Living Translation).

Personal crisis is the engine that makes a story go.  What “sells” a viewer or reader is the dysfunction of their fellow human beings.

This is why over the last 7 plus seasons the TV show “House” has been so popular. It features a gifted, yet deeply flawed diagnostic physician by the name of Gregory House. At the end of last season we were left with the good doctor having crashed his car into his girlfriend’s house (she also was his boss) and fleeing the country to some remote tropical location.

As season 8 opens, House is in jail. He has been there for 8 months.

House is a middle-aged man with a cane who doesn’t have the physical skills to deal with the potential harm he faces in prison. As he did on the outside, he survives by his wits.

With 5 days left before parole, he is told to stay out of trouble. For House, as all fans of the show know, this is well nigh impossible.

Indeed, he gets to the final day and messes up. Seeing the prison doctor making a stupid decision that is endangering  a patient’s life, House breaks prison rules, causes a scene and ends up with 8 more months in jail

In the next epidode of the new season, House is told that he has a visitor, his former hospital’s dean of medicine. This would be in House’s mind Lisa Cuddy, the aforementioned boss and girlfriend.

However, it turns out to be Dr. Eric Foreman, an African American physician who has been at odds with House for the entire series and now has replaced Cuddy. He is there to “rescue” House.

In exchange for working as a diagnostician again at the hospital, Foreman offers House a “get out of jail free” card. At first reluctant, House finally accepts.

House’s return to the hospital isn’t joyful. His former team has moved on. Furthermore his best friend, Dr. James Wilson, who House injured in the car incident at Cuddy’s home, has no intention of renewing their old ties.

In additon, House is getting paid minimum wage, has a broom closet for an office, and is told by Foreman that if he slips up once, he will go back to jail.  Despite the temptation to go back to his usual contrary ways, House manages to toe the line and do what he does best: he solves the case Foreman yanked him out of jail for.

Along the way, he also inspires courage in his old friend Wilson. The patient House is dealing with is his, and Wilson lacks the fortitude to get the patient to make a decision that could save their life. 

House convinces Wilson of what he has to do. Wilson does what House tells him to do and the patient makes a painful, but correct, choice and is saved.

During their professional interactions, House tries to be his old playful self with Wilson, overtures which his friend rejects. House tells him,”Look, I like you. We have fun together. Do whatever you have to do to get over this.”

At shows end, with his old friend having proved his professional and personal mettle, Wilson walks into House’s new office (actually, part of the old one which Foreman has returned to him) and punches him in the nose. Wilson then looks at House and asks,”Dinner later?”

House’s recovery has begun. He has regained his job and his best friend. The smile on his face is also the first sign of the possibility of some semblance joy coming back into House’s life.

Over two thousand years ago, God’s people were in a prison of their own making. Despite having a special role in God’s plan, the Jewish people had regularly rejected Him and were currently under a harsh Roman occupation.

In the midst of this mess Jesus Christ was born. God’s purpose in the birth was told to his mother Mary beforehand (Luke 1:26-38).

Mark Lowry asks the question about how much Mary really understood of just who her son was in these lyrics:

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.

 
I don’t think Mary really grasped the significance of who Jesus was, at least not until later. But who did? And who does today?
 
It has taken me a lifetime to see. Lowry’s lyrics accompanied by Buddy Greene’s music summarizes in my heart and my emotions something I have known mostly in my intellect up until now.
 
This Jesus has rescued me. He has me on the road to recovery in my life.  I know Him more today than I ever have before, but that’s because I have had to cling to Him for dear life.
 
It has taken time in my own personal jail. It has taken metaphorical punches in the nose. But I think I finally get it.
 
Why did it take so long? 
 
Kathy Mattea says in an introduction to “Mary, Did You Know”:
 
“The first time I heard this song, it instantly became my favorite Christmas song of all time. And to me, this song is exactly what Christmas is all about.”
 
This weekend “Mary, Did You Know”  has instantly become my favorite Christmas song as well. In one fell swoop it has shown me my need for forgiveness for not grasping just who this Jesus man is and put into words what my heart now comprehends.
 
Before, I gave lip service to believing in Him. Today, I understand that this man, this Jesus, is the living God who has rescued me, helped me on the path to restoration and given me the hope of rejoicing with Him now and forever.
 
He isn’t to be trifled with. Who knew?
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“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? (Matthew 5:43-46).”

 

We keep hearing about “the 1 percent” and “the 99 percent” these days. This is because of the “Occupy” movement, which is seeking to trumpet the growing disparity between the rich and the poor.

The gap in wealth between these two is said to be growing in these tough times.  Money isn’t the only thing that seems to seperate these two groups.

The rich seem to think of the occupiers as smelly unwashed deadbeats who should get a job. The 99 percenters think of the other 1 percent as greedy so and sos who came by their position in life unfairly.

This week a large number of Ferraris were involved in a rather high profile smash up in Japan. When I saw the images of these expensive vehicles showing how they had been mangled, I posted a story about them on my Facebook wall and noted,”I bet the 99 percent are clapping.”

You can’t get away from a discussion on the “percenter” these days. Even in Finland, the little country I presently work in, there was a story this week which published the names of the 100 richest people in the country.

What characterizes the debate is acrimony. The rich believe they have earned their money fair and square through hard work and effort and dismiss the 99 percenters as lazy riff raff who could join them if they only made the effort.

The 1 percenters, on the other hand, think the rich have been special privileges which gave them an advantage. They resent the fact that some people come by their money through inheritances, tax breaks or speculation.

One Newsweek article I glanced at asked the question whether or not all the hubub would cause the rich to stop spending their dough. Not hardly, said the magazine.

 The Occupy Wall Street website has this point of view:

“We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.”

I sympathize with these comments. Just about everything they describe above has happened to me.

It is easy to become envious when your friends are off to the Canary Islands during the holidays while you have the choice of paying your rent or the airfare needed to go see your family. This is the choice I had to make recently.

When you are poor, you dare not make a mistake. I lost my flat key yesterday.

It cost me 20 euros to replace it. That’s food money for me, man!

One friend has written a novel and wants me to write a review on Amazon for him.  “Just download it. It will cost you 3.99.” 

I think a lot of the 99 percenters know that 3.99 can sometimes be a lot of money. The wealthy just don’t get it.

The last time I was here in Finland, I left my little boring city twice in three years for a total of a day and a half. I couldn’t afford the transportation costs to go anywhere.

My summers were spent down at the harbor reading my books and living vicariously through the people on their lounging on their boats and drinking at the boat bars. I got the same ambience they did. I just didn’t pay as much!

I could go on and discuss “why” I am in the financial condition I am in and the 1 percenters are better off. I suppose I could find pros and cons when it comes to my own decisionmaking and theirs.

However, that’s not my purpose here. What I want to relay is what I see the Scriptures as having to say on this subject of being in the top echelons or as one belonging  to the group that barely scrapes by. There are some lessons on this in I and II Kings in the Old Testament.

The latter part otf I Kings describes the most wicked king Israel had had up to his reign. His name was Ahab (I Kings 16:29-30).

Ahab was king during a severe famine.Yet, he himself had plenty of livestock, silver and gold, and an apparently healthy family (I Kings 17:1, I Kings 18:1-6; I Kings 20:1-7).

Ahab was in the 1 percent. However, it wasn’t enough for him.

He wanted to buy a vineyard from a man named Naboth. However, the latter did not want to sell because it was part of the family farm handed down from generations.

When Ahab’s wife caught him sulking like an 8-year old over this rejection, she did something about it. Jezebel had Naboth killed so Ahab could take control of the property (I Kings 21:1-16).

At this point God had had enough of Ahab’s shenanigans and sent Elijah to pronounce judgement. However, a funny thing happened as a result of the prophet’s rebuke.

The wicked Ahab humbled himself before God.  As a result, God postponed the judgment to after Ahab’s death (I Kings 21:17-29).

If I were in the 99 percent back then, I would really be perturbed at God. “Why Lord, how could you let this greedy, murderous 1 percenter off because of a little sackloth and ashes?!”, I would say.

The thing here to acknowledge is that God loves the one percent, too. Jesus didn’t just die for the 99.

Indeed, he taught this lesson to his disciples. He told them:

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14

Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey popularized a song written about this passage in the late 19th century at their revivals:

 There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold.
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare.
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer: “This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.”

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry,
Sick and helpless and ready to die;
Sick and helpless and ready to die.

“Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way
That mark out the mountain’s track?”
“They were shed for one who had gone astray
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back.”
“Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?”
“They are pierced tonight by many a thorn;
They are pierced tonight by many a thorn.”

And all through the mountains, thunder riven
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of Heaven,
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!
Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!” (Words by Elizabeth C. Clephane)

If we are in the 99 percent, we ought to be praying for the 1 percenters. We can pray God sends an Elijah to them and they turn to God and do His will.

Lately  on my prayer list I have put a request that my ongoing financial struggles would end. I am tired of being a 99 percenter.

However, the Lord seems to be telling me that I am already loaded. I don’t have a huge nest egg or money under my pillow, though.

What He has reminded me is that I have access to Him, who is the richest and most powerful Being in the universe. It is nothing for Him to provide for me, or to even give me a little fun once in a while!

Look at what He did for the people in the time of Ahab’s and his wicked son. Through Elijah and Elisha he provided more than enough for those who came to them, knowing they were representatives of the Lord.

Through them God provided nutritious food, enough money and clean water. In addition, by the miracles of these godly men He protected them from the poor health their poverty could produce (I Kings 17:7-24;  II Kings 2:19-21; 4:1-7, 38-43; ).

However, God didn’t forget the 1 percent. He provided the best health care of a kind not even available to them. He brought a rich woman’s son back from the dead (II Kings 4:8-37).

The truth is that this woman supported Elisha, God’s prophet. She’s proof, you 99 percenters, that there are godly people among the 1 percent and that they suffer the world’s ills just as we do.

In God’s economy, there isn’t a 99 percent or a 1 percent. We’re His children and He takes care of us one way or another.

Perhaps if we thought that way in this day and age, we wouldn’t be doing so much shouting at each other.

 

    

 

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