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Archive for the ‘resurrection’ Category

What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun?  All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless. A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God,  for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” (Ecclesiastes 2:22-25)

I was recently in the store of a major book seller and noticed these titles prominently displayed:

  • I Can Make You Confident
  • I Can Make You Sleep
  • I Can Make You Rich
  • I Can Make You Thin

I looked above the shelf holding these volumes and noticed this sign:

50% OFF

Obviously the man didn’t deliver!

Most of us in the USA these days are in dire need of what this author is promising.  We Americans seem to be allowing our world to spin out of control.

It’s “do, do,do” all the time.  This aspect of our culture is my main bugaboo about the way we live.

I have really struggled with that tug since I returned from living in Europe last summer. The folks over there seem to have a different mindset.

Yeah, they work hard. However, they also know when it’s time to leave the workplace and enjoy life.

It’s clear that we think that it all depends on us. We’re afraid to give up control.

Yet, we also see at times what abject failures we can be. If we weren’t overweight, financially strapped, insecure and wide-awake in the middle of the night, why would there be book titles like the ones I saw for sale at all. We obviously are lost a lot.

One of the ways we stressed-filled US Americans try to relax is by watching NFL games on TV. Every week they’re rated as some of the most viewed programs.

They’re definitely popular now as the NFL is in the middle of the playoffs.  I confess to being glued to particular contests.

One of most famous of these games took place right before Christmas in 1972. The Pittsburgh Steelers were facing their archrivals, the Oakland Raiders, for the right to advance forward towards the Super Bowl.

What is legendary about this game is one particular play.  It came with 22 seconds left in the match, with the Steelers behind 7-6.

Quarterback Terry Bradshaw took the snap and went back to pass. He faced a heavy rush.  Running to his right, Bradshaw almost slipped to the turf, but he recovered, ran to his right and threw the ball down the field toward halfback John “Frenchy” Fuqua.

Just as the ball reached him, Fugua was smacked by Raiders cornerback Jack Tatum, infamous for his brutal hits. The ball caromed off of Tatum.

What happened next has gone down in football lore. Just as the ball was about to hit the ground, Steelers running back Franco Harris scooped the ball out of the air, ran to his left, stiff armed a pursuing Raider defender, danced along the sideline and ran into the end zone for the game winning touchdown.

As one would expect, the fans went nuts.  They rushed onto the field and mobbed the celebrating Steelers players.

Fuqua told reporters this after the game:

“I can tell you this: I did not take my eyes off the ball, as you can tell from the way that my body was. What happens from that point on was truly Immaculate.”

The event has evermore been known as the Immaculate Reception.

I have been pondering of late why I seem to have little victory in my Christian life. The Immaculate Reception is a fine object lesson for me in my thinking.

You see, the Pittsburgh Steelers were going about their business trying to win the game. Frankly, things did not look good. It appeared that they were about to go down to defeat.

Yet, something extraordinary happened.  When Bradshaw threw that ball, a normal action for him, everyone thought the ordinary would occur. The ball would either be caught by a Steeler, fall incomplete, or perhaps even be intercepted by a Raiders player.

No one expected the ball to take a funny bounce and miraculously fall into the hands of Franco Harris, who was in the right place at the right time. Harris didn’t hesitate, though. He took advantage of the situation and ran the ball in for a score.

Now what did the Pittsburgh Steelers have to do with their victory. Pretty much they were just available to receive the gift handed to them. I figure this must what my role is to getting victory in my Christian experience.

Recently I have been listening to the sermons a preacher from the mid 2oth century at the recommendation of my pastor. Major Ian Thomas was a man who understood what it took for a Christian to live victoriously. Thomas said,”Jesus Himself is the very dynamic to meet all his demands.”

The idea from Thomas is that Jesus doesn’t give us strength, for example. He IS our strength.

Likewise, Jesus doesn’t give us victory. He IS or victory. Thomas likes to say,”We’re just the suit of clothes Jesus wears.”

This is surely biblical. Jesus Himself said,”I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).”

Why, what Jesus said is anti-American! Aren’t we supposed to lift ourselves up by our bootstraps?

Even the American hero Benjamin Franklin said that “God helps those who help themselves.” With all due respect to the otherwise admirable Mr. Franklin, this popular sentiment is hogwash and not scriptural.

The other morning I awoke and I believe God spoke to me. Oh, not audibly.  It was just the still small voice we Christians we hear from His Spirit at times.

What  came to me was this: “Cease striving.”  This message has returned to me several times since this week.

When I get anxious, I hear “cease striving”. My only response has had to be obedience. I just tell the Lord,”Ok.”

This may be Un-American, but I don’t care. I am as big a patriot as the next guy, but I have a higher citizenship.

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” ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28-30).”

I was talking to an acquaintance the other day, complaining about a personal injustice. This conversation got me steamed.

The more I thought about it, the worse I felt. I was more ashamed of my feelings over the matter than the humiliation I encountered when it happened.

So, I took a l-o-o-n-g walk to cool off.  Then I settled down with my books at home.  (This is one of the benefits of having no electronic entertainment, save a boom box. I read a lot.)

After that night of reading, I felt even more ashamed of my complaining.

One of the books I read was called “The End of Poverty”. In it the economist Jeffrey Sachs discussed the condition of the world economically.

One-sixth of the world’s population, says Sachs, is still in extreme poverty. This means that they are not even on the ladder to economic survival.

Sachs cites the female garment workers in Bangaladesh as women who are climbing out of extreme poverty and onto the ladder of opportunity. Of course, they have a long way to go.

They walk several hours a day to and from their homes outside of Dhaka to get to work and back. At their jobs they work on clothes for the Europeans and Americans, 12 hours a day for minimal wages.

On the job and in their travels they are subject to sexual harassment. The life is unimaginable to those of us living at least a minimal good life in a developed country and if we have any heart, it makes us sad, or even angry.

In fact, the media and celebrities regularly decry the treatment of women like those in Bangladesh and shame the companies that employ them. Yet, Sachs thinks this outrage is the wrong approach.

He says that these women are actually on the first rung of economic success. Over time and exponentially, they will improve their lot and those around them.

Still, their plight is unjust. So is the situations of countless other people around the globe in worse conditions.

I wish I had more concern for the injustice done to people like the women of South Asia. Instead, I get caught up in my own petty concerns.

As I read the other night, I continued my progress through aother book, a  Charles Dickens’ classic called  “The Tale of Two Cities”.  Somehow I managed to skip a lot of English lit in school, so I guess it’s never too late.

“The Tale of Two Cities” surprised and moved me. It too is about injustice.

Set in Paris and London during the days of the French Revolution, it details the horrors done to people who were not aristocrats. Indeed, Sachs notes that only in the last 200 years has the world begun to develop economically, with the average worker in Europe earning about 90% of what your average African worker does today.

These peasants were fair game for the richer nobility. Indeed, the plot of Dickens’ novel centers around the consequences stemming from the shocking ill treatment of a serf woman and her family by the boys of a French aristocratic  family.

However, the revolutionaries that took power during the French Revolution are portrayed by Dickens as equal to their “noble” predecessors in terms of their brutality. They took vengeance on anyone who stood in their way, especially if they were associated with aristocrats.

It didn’t matter if they were guilty of a criminal act or not. It was “off with their heads!”

One of the key figures in “The Tale of Two Cities” is a child of one of  the perpetrators of the aforementioned outrage concerning the peasant woman. He grew into a man named Charles Evremonde, called Darnay.

Darnay had rejected his aristocratic upbtinging and moved to England, where he married the daughter of a French doctor who had been imprisoned in the Bastille.  However, to save a former servant of his family imprisoned unjustly by the revolutionaries, he returns to France.

There he is through a series of events sentenced by a revolutionary tribunal to be guillotined. Darnay is a good man with a kind wife and a child and has done nothing to deserve execution, except to have been born into the wrong family.

It appears all is lost for Darnay until an old friend comes along and saves the day. Sidney Carton from England, almost a part of the prisoner’s family and formerly entranced with Mrs. Darnay when she was single, manages to substitute himself through trickery for Darnay at the guillotine.

Carton has led a wasted life and he knows it. He is a man with a lot of bad habits. Yet, he sees in this act the possibility for redemption.

Indeed, as he contemplates what he is about to do, Carton walks late at night along the Seine quoting a statement from Jesus:

 “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die (John 11:25, 26 Kings James Version).

As I read this passage, I thought that the term ‘dead’ could be construed in a couple of ways. One is the common biblical idea of being spíritually separated from God. The other is another common usage, which is that of “death to self’ (Luke 9:23.

Carton was ‘dead’ in both ways. He had left a profligate life away from God. However, now he had also chosen to die to himself and sacrifice himself for his friend.

As Carton contemplated this action, he must have felt very lonely. The words of a current pop hit tell of what must have been in his heart:

 I don’t wanna be left
In this war tonight
Am I alone in this fight?
Is anybody out there?

Don’t wanna be left left in this world behind
Say you’ll run to my side (Artist: K’NAAN featuring Nelly Furtado)

The complete song describes “losers” in this life´. “Mary” isn’t pretty or popular, and she’s insecure.  She  can “point a finger, but there’s three pointing back.”

“Adam” is  a child totally ignored by his father. He “grew up mad and antisocial” and spent his days playing video games. Drugs were the only way out.

“With one last hope he puts his arms up higher
I can see him crying out, yeah
Is anybody out there?”

Sidney Carton in “The Tale of Two Cities” discovers that there is someone out there.  He chooses to believe in His new friend Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life.

Carton gains strength and hope from this verse, taught to him by his father. It carries him through to complete the rescue of Charles Darnay. 

Carton had spent a lifetime not trusting and hurting, a victim of his own injustices in life.  Then he met Jesus Christ. In effect, Jesus says to him the same words of another recent pop song:

Don’t wanna break your heart
I wanna give your heart a break
I know you’re scared it’s wrong
Like you might make a mistake
There’s just one life to live
And there’s no time to waste, to waste

Give your heart a break
Let me give your heart a break
Your heart a break
There’s just so much you can take
Give your heart a break
Let me give your heart a break
Your heart a break (Artist: Demi Lovato)
Sidney Carton believes Jesus. He believes Jesus can and will give his heart a break. He turns his broken heart over to Jesus.
 
In doing so, he finds a way to right the wrongs he sees in his own life and in those around him. He gives his life, his dead life,  for his old earthly friend,  and to his newfound heavenly One.
 
I can learn from  Sidney Carton. I see myself in him.
 
Like him, I am dead in many ways. I am powerless. I know I can’t solve  all the injustices in my ownl life or the multitudinous ones out there in the world.   
 
Yet, like Sidney I can start to solve some of the wrongs in this world by believing my friend Jesus and giving up my life to Him. I may not have trusted many people, if any, before but now I can trust Him.
 
When Jesus says it He means  it. When He says He is the Resurrection and the Life, then I can know it’s the truth. His word is as good as gold.
 
After I believe Jesus and give my life to Him, every day, then I can follow behind Him and give up my life for  those He so chooses.  This may not take care of more than a drip of the injustice drowning me and the world today, but it’s a beginning.
 
 

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“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55)

My niece Bethany Fowler-Jimenez died this week. She was 33 years old.

I was heartbroken when I learned the news and I have been in that state since. This morning I asked myself why. After all, I hardly ever saw Beth.

Sitting on my sofa and weeping (and I am not ashamed to write this), I think I came to understand why her passing hurts so much. There are several reasons for the sense of loss I feel.

First, Beth was family. She was the daughter of my only brother, himself very dear to me.

In this day and age, you would think the word ‘family’ doesn’t mean what it used to. Still, as the old German proverb says, blood is thicker than water.

There’s something almost mystical in relationships between those who share the same DNA. Beth and I were joined by mutual histories, triumphs and failures carried down to us from previous generations.

Second, as an adult Beth had become my friend. Once when my family and I were thinking of coming to her area, she learned of it and made a point to contact me and invite us into her home with open arms.

We did come and we did spend a weekend with her and her family. It was a fun and enjoyable experience as we got to know her husband and kids, and even her multiple dogs!

Beth not only was my niece and my friend, but she was a person who treated me with honor. In recent years, this one especially, she has contacted me for advice and made no secret of her respect and love for me. Indeed, when Beth told you she loved you, somehow you knew she truly meant it.

Her young son and I share a name together. Blood is thicker than water; names connect us.

William Shakespeare wrote,”If it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul.” Beth honored me and that fed my spirit.

Speaking of spirituality, there was a time this year when Beth caught me on Facebook and began a chat with me. She asked me how I sensed my calling in life was from God.

Beth told me she was asking this because the older she got, the more she found herself turning to Scripture and prayer. “I have learned to let go and let God a little bit more”, she wrote.

She related to me a meeting she had had with a female chaplain recently. This woman touched her so greatly that it had made her cry.

Beth wrote to me:

“The cry was a good cry because I almost felt like the conversation we had cleansed my soul and took me further into my faith and it renewed  my hope that God has a plan for me.  Im just not sure what it is and how do I know that’s it..I don’t wanna miss the boat!”

Beth talked about how she felt drawn to helping people since she was 18. She became an emergency medical technician as a result of that.

Her posts told me that she was thinking of going to nursing school. Her motivation came from this passage from Matthew in which Jesus is telling a parable:

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

   “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

   “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

   “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’(Matthew 25:31-40).

For me, Bethany didn’t miss any boats. Unbeknownst to her, she had already loved me in the manner Jesus describes here and made Him proud.

Beth told me she loved the Psalms. This morning as I was thinking on her life, I read Psalm 91. I believe the Psalmist had her in mind when he wrote these words:

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you  from the fowler’s snare [AND IF I MAY PAUSE HERE, WE FOWLER’S HAVE A LOT OF THEM) and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,  nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, Nor the plague that destroys at midday.  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes  and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”  and you make the Most High your dwelling, 1no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands,so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra;    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

 “Because (s)he[loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue her    I will protect her, for she acknowledges my name.  She will call on me, and I will answer her;    I will be with her in trouble,  I will deliver her and honor her.  With long life I will satisfy her  and show her my salvation.”

Beth, you are in Jesus’s boat now. Knowing this has lessened the sting the scorpion wanted to make of your passing. See you on the other side.

Uncle Tim

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“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead (Phillipians 3:7,10).”

Today I was watching an episode of one of my favorite TV programs on the Internet and the network hosting it kept replaying the same commercial. It asked the viewer what they have found to be amazing.

Their clips included things like whales jumping through the ocean, and newborn babies. When I tried to answer the question, attempting to come up with images in my own mind, I drew a blank.

 This really concerns me. I am wondering why there is no “Wow” factor for me. I am questioning why my emotions are so dead.

Don’t get me wrong. I occasionally get teary-eyed over some things: an event involving a loved one, or a poignant drama, for example.

But I don’t get “wowed” by much of anything. Am I that much of a cynic?

It has occurred to me that my emotions may be numb because of the poor handling of what the experts call “loss” in my life. I have an article from a long-lost source which gives an expanded definition of “loss”.

Here is the bulk of this piece:

‘Loss’ is the disappearance of something cherished, such as a person, possession or property. The definition of loss also includes “the act or instance of losing; the failure to keep or get something valued; the harm or suffering caused by losing or being lost; losses a.k.a. casualties occurring during wartime; destruction; and a measurable reduction in some substance or process.

 Loss is a common experience common that can be encountered many times during a lifetime; it does not discriminate for age, race, sex, education, economic status, religion, culture or nationality. Most people have experienced some type of personal or professional loss at some point in their life as a byproduct of living.

Losses can be of many different types from the loss of relationship or job, to the loss of breast or limb, to the loss of mental faculties or health, to the loss of control over nature or life events or the ultimate loss through death. There are also many losses that occur as part of medicine. People are diagnosed with life-changing conditions or life-threatening diseases or terminal illnesses. They also may undergo procedures or surgeries that can cause different types of loss such as the loss of a limb or breast, the loss of mobility or the loss of the ability to eat. People may receive sudden bad news from physician, law enforcement, military personnel or clergy about unexpected loss of a loved one.

There are also losses that are never publicly announced or acknowledged such as with a miscarriage or abortion, death of a relative by suicide or various types of physical or emotional abuse. Instead of being able to grieve in a public manner, the person endures very private sorrows that can impact his/her health and well being.

I personally have experienced several types of losses described above. Most recently, I quit my job, tried to get it back, and then was basically told ‘no’.

I wasn’t technically fired. However, emotionally it is the same to me. I may have been anyway had I continued there.

In the last decade, I have quit some other jobs. They began hopefully, yet ended badly.

In a couple of them, I saw the handwriting on the wall. I was either going to get fired or laid off, so I left.

In the last decade I have also had other losses. I have lost a home, lost my father to death, and encountered life-altering health problems personally and with members of my family.

My most recent job loss has me looking in the mirror, since it was inability to control my temper which led to it. I have had a long, hard look and have seen the need to and method for change.

The experience has stirred some emotions in me, mostly shame and guilt. However, the one feeling I need to experience has escaped me, as it has with my other losses.

I am talking about “grief”. According to the same article above, grief is the normal response to “loss”.

Here’s what happens if one doesn’t grieve, according to this forgotten author:

Grief is the normal response to loss. Loss and the resulting grief response frequently affect a person’s mental and behavioral wellness. Repressed, unrecognized or unresolved grief can cause personal anguish, increased anxiety, multiple physical complaints, functional impairment, strained relationships, marital discord, disrupted sleep, impaired childhood, increased substance abuse–tobacco, alcohol, drugs, tranquilizers; clinical depression, and an increased mortality from heart disease and suicide.

I have experienced almost all of these symptoms of unresolved grief, except gratefully, I haven’t resorted to substance abuse. I wouldn’t be surprised if my leukemia, which is a disease that originates in the bone marrow, is the result of being incapable of dealing with my losses.

The wise man of Proverbs wrote, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22).” Indeed, perhaps my repressed grief led to a major surgery a year and a half ago.

It was one of my medical “losses”. I fell down a hill and heard something snap.

It turned out to be the bones in my ankle -three of them in fact. They were probably too weak to handle the impact.  My crushed spirit led to my crushed bones.

A failure to feel is a sad state of affairs. The wise man of Proverbs also wrote,”The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear (Proverbs 18:14)?”

Indeed, my emotional state has been far worse than the broken ankle bones. At least they have healed.

However, I have hope for the healing of my crushed spirit because the apostle Paul found the solution to it. He learned that neither performing, nor shame, nor guilt was  going to get him or anyone else out of his funk.

Writing to the Corinthians, he described the Israelites as having dull hearts. There hearts were veiled from God’s truth.

Paul told the people of Corinth that only Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit can take away this dull spirit, (II Corinthians 3:12-18, II Corinthians 4:6). Paul said that because we have the Spirit of Christ in our hearts, although it may not feel like it, God is “renewing us day by day” (II Corinthians 4:16).

My aforementioned article on loss quotes Elaine Childs-Gowell regarding the necessity of grieving over losses:

Whatever it is that I have lost (or must give up) I must grieve. If I do not do my grieving about the old hurts and insults, then, when I am faced with a here and now grief experience, I will end up having to dredge up all that old energy along with the current experience.

Ms. Childs-Gowell is correct in my view. We have to face our losses and sorrow over them to begin to heal.

We need to do this as we experience them.  The energy needed to deal with  cumulative  losses is too much for anyone to bear without doing this.

However, grieving is only the beginning of the healing process. Paul said he was “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair (II Corinthians 4:8)”; how could he say this?

It is because Paul had a view of life beyond this earthly one. To heal, we have to look at the eternal.

The more Paul experienced loss, the more he died and Jesus lived in Him. That’s my goal, too. I want to taste the life of Jesus in me so I will focus on what’s coming, my resurrection.

If I didn’t have anything to be amazed about before, I do now. What could be more amazing than to be resurrected from the dead, in this life and the next!

 I can’t perform or feel or think my way out of a funk in my emotions to get a sense of wonder.. Only experiencing the resurrection power of Jesus through faith in Him will heal my crushed spirit and give me the ability to say: “Wow!”

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