Prilosec advertises that you can’t beat zero heartburn. Well, maybe they are wrong. There is heartburn and then there is heartburn. It’s true you don’t want the heartburn they are talking about but don’t forget Luke 24:32. “They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” This was Cleopas speaking about their journey with Jesus on resurrection Sunday afternoon. He and his companion (wife perhaps) were two of the most blessed people ever. They spent hours with Jesus on that incredible day. The best way they could describe their feelings were the words “our heart burning within us.”
Prilosec tells us we need one pill each morning for 24 hour relief from the bad kind of heartburn. So I am thinking we need one experience with Jesus (via devotions) each morning to promote and further the abundant life He promised to us. If we do this, sometimes we will read something so wonderful or be drawn close by the presence of the Holy Spirit that we will have good heartburn that will last all day.
We can beat zero heartburn by having a good case of good heartburn. It is a grand experience. Surely knowing Jesus and having the assurance of salvation will more than warm the stoniest of hearts. Reading the promises and knowing they are for real is very exciting. Recently someone told me we need to be excited for Jesus. I don’t think we can turn on excitement by deciding to be excited. Excitement is the fruit of realizing something wonderful has occurred. Heartburn is the same. The bad kind is the fruit of things gone wrong. The good kind is the fruit of things gone very right.
In Luke 7 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
At Jesus’ baptism recorded in Luke 3 John saw the dove. He heard the voice from heaven proclaiming Jesus’ sonship. Then in Luke 7 we read, “When the men came to Jesus, they said, ‘John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”'” John was in prison and Jesus wasn’t advancing Jesus’ political posture. Things seemed to be getting worse. And so John doubted. He had seen the dove. He had heard the voice. And yet he doubted. And still Jesus called him the greatest ever born. I think I want to say “Wow.”
Therefore, if by any chance we find ourselves in a bad place, if we find life going down the drain, if we think we have lost all our friends, if our loved ones have turned on us, all of which leaves us to doubt God and His love, if we doubt that Jesus really cares, if we think our faith is based on thin air and there is no God, remember John the Baptist. It should clue us in to a fabulous truth. God knows our humanity. God knows how discouraged we can become. God knows Satan is determined to have us abandon our relationship with God. Despite all this God still loves us. We are still part of His family. Our doubt will not cause us to be disinherited from our legacy. Even when we doubt God still thinks we are the greatest! I think I want to again say, “Wow.”
The word is “cavil.” According to the dictionary it means to oppose with inconsequential, frivolous issues and to raise sham irritating and trivial objections; to find fault unnecessarily. Cavil especially comes to mind during political seasons. Instead of listening to serious adult issues discussed in a respectful manner we witness an abundance of caviling. Few things in life are impervious to spin. If Jesus were running for office His treatment of sinners would have provided fodder for cavilers because it was obvious He was “soft on crime.”
I raise this not because I want to condemn the system (I don’t have to. It condemns itself.) but because I am smitten with guilt. Through the years I have observed leadership that could do no right in my eyes. No matter what they did I could find a way to criticize. If I heard a good sermon I could figure out a way to find fault. If the sermon was perfect (It never is.) then I could find fault with the way the preacher was dressed or a mannerism I did not like.
Jesus had had enough of it and in Matthew 23 He explodes with frustration over the hypocritical cavilers. I cringe when I read what He said because it is so easy to gloatingly remove ourselves from His comments and think they were only directed at the then leadership.
I wonder if there is an antonym for cavil? I wonder how much more we would enjoy life if we spent our mental energies finding good in others and appreciating their efforts? What if we send them messages telling them how good they do? How good would life be if we recognized that everyone is trying his or her best to be good and to thank them and rejoice in their successes.
They stabbed Him in the heart just to make sure. Blood and water came out indicating the pericardium had been pierced. There was no question. He was dead. Sunday He was alive. It was Him. “Thomas put your finger here.” This was no hoax, no charade, no con. As Peter wrote, “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
Years later Peter was crucified, upside down per his request. He was no fool. He wasn’t about to suffer this horror for some made-up story. Andrew was crucified on an X shaped cross. Bartholomew was skinned alive. No. No. This was not a hoax. No one allows such for a fable no matter how clever. Jesus was dead and then He was alive.
He said it. Jesus said it in front of Lazarus’ tomb. “I am the resurrection and the life.” Was He ever! Is He ever! So what about you? Would you like to live forever? I know that some of you don’t even want to live even for another day. But that is because you are here. This place can be a mess and if it isn’t now it will be. Everyone you love will die. So we are not talking about here. We are talking about a place where death and deterioration will be artifacts of a time past. So claim the promise. Accept the gift. We are not joking. It is not a hoax. It is the real deal. Jesus said, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
J. C. Penny’s has been struggling for the past several years. Executive leadership has addressed several issues, one of which caught my eye. The CEO noticed the executives, who visited the stores, were disconnected from mainstream employees. A new directive went out that all executives, when visiting a store, must be dressed in J. C. Penny apparel and not with designer suits. They must wear name tags like the store employees. If they were going to save the corporation they must be part of it.
I could not miss the parallel with our salvation. Earth was very disconnected from God’s government. Angels came back and forth to earth but were not like us. To save us Jesus came not dressed in heaven’s garb. Paul tells us in Philippians 2, Jesus “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
Jesus truly became one of us. He was totally human. Surely He had the usual childhood illnesses of measles, mumps and chicken pox. In Hebrews we read that He was tempted in all points just like we are. J. C. Penny’s executives might be pretending to be like the sales force, but with Jesus it was no charade. It was the real thing. Our salvation depended upon the CEO Himself becoming one of us. With great joy we can proclaim the plan worked. On Sunday morning Jesus came forth the victor and He shares it with all of us. Happy Easter.
There are lots of antique stores in New England. What I love about them is so many of the items that are for sale were everyday items when I was a child. Some of them like dishes that used to come in laundry detergent boxes are fairly fragile. And I am amazed they still remain. Obviously they have been handled with care. They are much like some people that need to be handled with care because they are fragile. They are sensitive souls easily hurt and/or damaged.
Jesus was gentle with sensitive souls. Luke tells of a woman desperate for help but too shy to talk to Jesus. Reaching out from the crowd she only wanted to touch the hem of His coat. Amidst the press of the throng He stopped to reassure her of His care. While walking by the Pool of Bethesda He knelt by a man who had no one to care for him. Jesus cared and that man walked for the first time in 38 years.
There are times when I am tempted to be (what I think) clever and capitalize on the error of a student. Then I realize that something I think is funny can scar another. Teachers rarely remember what they say to a particular student but students do remember what teachers say to them. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4, “Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”
Most people are stamped “Fragile – Handle with Care.” We just don’t notice. If we do handle them with care, they might last long enough to end up unchipped in an antique store. That’s a really good thing.
Ornithologists are suspicious that birds can count. Cowbirds create a scenario that gives credence to this unusual ability. Cowbirds are really lousy parents. They are the worst. They have no idea how to change diapers or do any of those essential parental things so they wait for another species of bird to leave their nest. They quickly swoop in, toss an egg out of that nest, and replace it with their own. The other bird sees the same number of eggs they had when they left, so they raise the cowbird, which is often bigger, which then eats most of the food brought to the nest often to the fatal determent of the babies that belong in that nest.
Spring is definitely here because I saw a returned cowbird at our feeder this morning. My first inclination was to think, “You lousy so and so. (It most likely really does have lice.) Go somewhere else. You aren’t welcome here.” Then I remembered Jesus welcoming me into His family. How much do I sin? Let me count the ways! I am selfish. I think I’m better than certain groups of people. I use more than my share of this world’s resources. My carbon footprint is huge. I hang up on telemarketers. I resent people that cut me off in traffic. Humm. I better stop before I get to the juicy sins.
I love Romans 5, “God demonstrated His love for me while I was a cowbird.” Well, actually it says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” But it means the same.
By the way, if birds can count why can’t they recognize that big greedy child isn’t theirs? I guess they aren’t as bright as I thought.
We awoke this morning to yet more senseless acts of violence instigated by ignorance and hate. As we listened to news reporters describing the scenes of destruction we heard words and phrases like “sophisticated,” “masterminded by,” “highly trained,” “well coordinated.” I would like to register my complaint that media glorify these haters with such terms. It does not take a brilliant mind to destroy, blow-up or shoot. It does not take training to push a button that ends not only one’s own life but the lives of those around you. A monkey can press a button. Anyone with the intelligence of a three-year-old can walk into a workplace where they are known and spray the room with bullets killing one’s colleagues. Small children push over piles of blocks creating shambles.
Building things, designing living spaces, enhancing lives with technology, making communities safe from disease, providing food and clean water to third world countries, developing means by which people can be educated and provided with opportunities to earn a good living for their children, these are the things that take sophistication and high training.
For millennia Satan has been ruining this beautiful world God has created for His children. Let us cease speaking of how clever and brilliant individuals are who destroy and create horror. God and God’s children create and mastermind good things. Satan and Satan’s deceived, misguided, mislead and ignorant children bring death. Any ignoramus can take apart a cell phone. Only the brilliant can put it back together so that it works. Let us call sin by its right name and cease puffing up the egos of those who destroy and maim. Yes God is good and God is great. Why don’t they listen to their own message?
Have you ever been a dangling participle? A participle is a modifier much like an adjective. Often it denotes some form of action that describes the subject of a sentence. An example is “The flying hawk never flapped its wings.” Flying is the participle. If I said, “Flying in the strong wind, the hawk never flapped its wings” I created a participle phrase. If I said, “While reading a book, the hawk never flapped its wings.” I forgot to mention while I was reading a book, the hawk never flapped its wings. The phrase represented or latched on to the nearest subject (the hawk) and became a dangler. It modified the wrong subject.
Now back to my beginning thought about our being a dangling participle. I watched a church deacon upbraid a teen for coming to church with a short skirt. The teen left and most likely will never return. The deacon thought he was representing Jesus (who welcomed everyone). Instead the deacon accomplished Satan’s work by driving the teen from the church. The deacon represented the wrong subject.
Now if none of this made any sense it is because I slept through grammar class in high school and after many decades probably have it all wrong. So you can forget the participle thing. But please do not forget the most important idea here, which is if we are intending to represent Jesus let us make sure we always do it with care and love lest we end up representing the enemy. My prayer is never for us to be dangling participles.
“But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” Luke 15.
“No” is a favorite word of two-year-olds. Sometimes parents are alarmed at what appears to be rebellion and the beginning of the road to perdition. However, child developmentalists assure us it is a healthy sign of the emergence and growth of individuality. The child is saying, “I’m a person. I have power. I can make choices.” It is the beginning of the journey to adulthood when we want our children to be ready to cope with life without our holding their hands.
So the question arises. If we are God’s children, if He wants us to grow, if we are responsible enough to roam His universe someday, is there ever an occasion for us to tell Him, “No”? I’m not talking about disobedience to a moral stance, but more in the line of wanting our preference. When Jesus visited with Abraham on the way to Sodom, Abraham engaged Him in bargaining for the salvation of the city. In the wilderness Moses protested God’s plan to destroy Israel after the golden calf incident. This seems unthinkable yet God did not seem to mind.
What if God has a plan for our lives and we want to do something else. Will He say, “Okay. I will bless you”? Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, let us reason together.” Could it be that as we grow God, like any good parent, gives us more and more choices to forge our own way? I don’t make my sons’ day to day decisions. They are men now. I trust them to be wise. If they need my support it’s there with very few if any questions asked. I’m not thinking we ever want to be separated from God and be totally on our own. I’m thinking about an eternity of personal choices with our Father’s blessings.