“Gomer or Goner?”

“But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground (John 8:1-11).”

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Jim Nabors as Gomer

 

Did you know that General Washington made Thanksgiving an official holiday in 1777, long before Lincoln made it our national holiday in 1863?  Both men wanted to thank God for His blessings on America since 1620, but what about you?  What are you the most thankful for on this Thanksgiving?

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Number 16

 

For me, it’s doing nothing.  Let me explain.

With a Catholic father and an Episcopal mother I had a good religious foundation, but I thought forgiveness depended on my efforts.  If I did more good things than bad things, then God would let me into Heaven, kind of like a cosmic scale weighing out my life choices.

I was wrong.  Doing something for God to balance out my sins was delusional.  Imagine a contagious leper offering you a gift. Two examples show that we can do nothing to earn God’s favor.

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The General’s uniform in the Smithsonian

 

Remember what Jesus said to the thief crucified with Him in Luke 23? “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”  What good works could he do in those final minutes to outweigh a lifetime of sins?

And the adulterous woman about to be stoned in John 8 (above) when Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you.” What good works could she do in those few minutes to outweigh a lifetime of sins?

When you compare your works against His holiness, then we’re all goners, as Isaiah 64:6 says, “…all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment (which in Hebrew is likened to a menstrual cloth).”  Our best is worthless.

So what did Jesus write in the dirt?  Perhaps it was the name of the prophet Hosea’s wife.  She was a harlot too, but God told Hosea to marry her, symbolically depicting Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.  Later on, she was redeemed and brought back to her husband. Her name was Gomer, which means, “complete” in Hebrew, and coincidentally Jesus’ last words on the cross, “It is finished (or complete).”

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What did He write?

 

Admitting that my sin separates me from God is the first step, guilty as charged (Isaiah 59:2), and that my salvation depends on what He completed on the cross––only His bloody sacrifice cancelled my debt (Colossians 2:13-14).  Nothing else.  My cosmic scale is demolished.

Like the adulterous woman and the dying thief, we’re all criminals, but as Ephesians 2:8-9 says, doing nothing is the key, “…by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works that no one should boast.”  You don’t work for a gift; you just receive it (John 1:12).

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The Thief on the Cross

 

This takes humility to do nothing, to admit guilt, and simply surrender, but that’s what a Gomer is…a desperate harlot or a convicted thief, helpless, only complete by His work on the cross (Galatians 2:16-21).

So on this Thanksgiving I’m most thankful for being a Gomer, one brought back to her husband who could do nothing to be redeemed from my harlotry, but no longer a Goner.

Screen Shot 2019-11-18 at 6.16.36 PM.pngThe adulterous woman and Jesus

 

“…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.  But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!  For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.  For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

–Galatians 2:16-21

Screen Shot 2019-11-18 at 6.24.33 PM.pngHosea’s redemption of Gomer

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

The Book of Hosea explained

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“The Koimeterion Hotel”

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51).”

Screen Shot 2019-10-14 at 12.30.27 PM.png“Remember the Maine!” 

 

I love a good mystery.  My wife and I are enjoying a British detective show called “Vera,” which is in its ninth season and has become wildly popular.  Contrast that popularity with another mystery folks work very hard to ignore…cemeteries.  Have you ever noticed that they are almost always deserted?

Screen Shot 2019-10-14 at 12.28.31 PM.pngD.C. I. Vera Stanhope

 

And yet there’s something about a whole life crammed into a headstone that fascinates me.  I can’t help it; I like cemeteries.  My favorite is in Key West, Florida.  A tombstone there simply reads, “I told you I was sick.”

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Be sure to see your doctor annually

 

The Apostle Paul wrote that we are all sick too (Romans 3:23), infected with a spiritual cancer that has not only deadened our soul (Ephesians 2:1), but also kills our body.  Sin is deadly (Romans 6:23).  Paul also said that even if you are born again–the Holy Spirit is literally inside of your body­–your physical death is inevitable, but that thankfully it’s no longer fatal for a genuine believer.  He likened it to sleep, just like an afternoon nap.

Paul chose a good metaphor.  Death looks like sleep, but sleep is only a temporary condition.  You will eventually wake up, whereas death is a permanent separation of soul and body.  Paul’s warning is that sin makes death inescapable, but that it doesn’t need to be permanent.  The “change” he references above is to the resurrection where real believers are changed into immortals with a new body, but without sin.

Screen Shot 2019-10-14 at 12.32.22 PMMiracle Max and “mostly dead.”

 

So why do we avoid cemeteries?  Perhaps ignoring death lessens our fear of it and the unknown, but the Bible says it’s good to go to funerals because they wake us up to this certain rendezvous (Ecclesiastes 7:1-2).  Like cemeteries, funerals remind us of our own transience, that we have an irrevocable appointment with God, and the supreme importance of not gambling with death (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Are you gambling?  Or are you one hundred percent positive, without a doubt, and absolutely certain that if you died tonight you’d go to Heaven?  The Bible was written for this very purpose (1 John 5:13).  Heaven isn’t guesswork, you can know for sure. Death can be just a nap!

Your fear of death can end today, and then you can join me for a cemetery stroll because they’re not only fascinating historical places, but literally restful. In fact, the Greek word Paul uses for cemetery, koimeterion, is also translated as hotel, a “rest house for strangers.”

XPosure_cover_FINAL copy.jpgA shameless plug (for Adrian Ashworth’s shot of an old graveyard)

 

So if He is inside of you, then death is more exciting than life, and no mystery at all.  As Paul said, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).” Although someone giving away the ending for a mystery is annoying, Paul’s spoiler-alert means comfort for our ending…an assured funeral hope…and Jesus’ empty tomb proves that hope. Death itself is quite literally dead.

A peek at Vera Stanhope: Vera Season 9 Trailer

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“Can You Tusrt the Blbie?”

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil(John 3:19).”

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The phaonmneal pweor of the huamn mnid, aoccdrnig to Cmabrigde Uinervtisy rsceeacrh, syas it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are arnarged, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the fsirt and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.

The rset can be a taotl mses and you wlil sltil raed it wouthit a porbelm.  Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter, but the wrod as a whole.  Amzanig, huh?

Screen Shot 2019-09-21 at 11.34.55 AMCabmridge Unviersity

 

Lsat month’s bolg daelt wtih the autthoiry of the Blbie and wehtehr or not God wluod alolw sotehming as criitcal as His supneraturlaly reealved insrtucnstios to us for our etnreal savlaiton bieng oepn to consfuion, tapmernig, or miinsterprteatoin.  Eevn in tihs prupesfluly miexd up cloumn, we stlil get the mian piont of tihs mesasge.

How mcuh mroe so if the Amligthy God watned to comumniacte His soltuion for our suols to dael with sin and detah?  Wulod God alolw any ctnoamiantion to His mesasge? Wloud He mkae it hrad to unedrtasnd?  Is He pwoerufl enuogh to ptroect His wrods?

Thsee are obivosuly rhetociral qusteions.  Of coruse God is storng enoguh to procett His svlaation meassge.  The rael quetison is actulaly a matetr of the haert…are you wlliing to reveice His measgse by rediang the Bilbe for yosruelf?

Screen Shot 2019-09-21 at 11.37.20 AM.pngInsipred or jsut a book?

 

Look waht Jeuss siad in Luke 16:31, “But He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” 

If tehy wolud not acecpt the messgae of the Old Tetsamnet rergading tiehr sin and His lvoe for tehm, eevn afetr sieeng so mnay demontsratoins of His mirauclous lvoe, eevn rasiing the daed wluod not sotfen tehir hrad heatrs.  It’s not crebidility…it’s stubbnroess.

Your hrad herat, lvoe of slef, and sin, preevnts you form eevn reanidg His Wrod. So lte’s hvae no mroe excsues abuot the Bbile bieng flul of conrtadicitons or mistinerprteatoins. The rael isuse is yuor haert and you simlpy dno’t lvoe God.

Or myabe yuo’re afarid, like a naghuty chlid who feras dispciline, but tihs is precilsey why Jeuss cmae…to tkae yuor puhnisment, so you colud cmoe bcak. Lkie the Prdoigal Son stroy taht Jseus tlod in Luke 15, yuor Fatehr lnogs for you to cmoe hmoe.

Wlil you gvie up and adimt yuor need (Isaiah 64:6), or mkae lmae exucses aoubt the Bilbe’s inipsration.  Hvae you eevn seriolsuy raed the Bblie?  Why not try rdaeing the Gospel of John and see for yruoslef if Jeuss is the olny way as He clamied (John 14:6)?

Screen Shot 2019-09-21 at 11.38.53 AM.pngThe Apsotle Jhon’s letetr

 

You mgiht fnid taht He loevs you, and olny watns to hlep you. Eevn miexd up, like this bolg, if yuo’ll just raed His Wrod you may fnid taht He loevs you.  If not, tehn mabye yuo’re the rael contdraiction for critciizing somtehing yuo’ve nveer seriosuly raed and it’s not the Blibe…or pehraps you jsut lvoe the dkraness?

 

 

 

 

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“Mythed Me By That Much”

“Now these (Bereans) were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so (Acts 17:11).”

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Agent 86, Max Smart

 

Three weeks before the 75thanniversary of the Normandy invasion, I found myself on Omaha Beach in France.  The flat expanse overwhelms; there’s no cover from the Nazi gunfire that slaughtered our troops.  Even a poor marksman with eyes closed couldn’t miss killing gobs of men in that open terrain.  It was beyond humbling.

IMG_1035Normandy, a chilling place even without bullets and explosions

 

When we got back in the car, our French tour guide recounted the story of Raymond Hoback’s Bible (he and his brother Bedford of A Company, 116thInfantry were both killed on June 6thwhere we had literally just stood). Another American soldier found his Bible on the beach and thoughtfully mailed it to the family.

“They were the first to go in and they really didn’t have a chance, the Germans were mowing them down as they hit the beach,” said Lucille Hoback Boggess, their younger sister.  “My mother always treasured that Bible.”

The brothers Hoback

 

I asked our guide where he went to church.  Sadly, he said he never did, and had been raised with no real comprehension of Jesus.  Then he added that no one goes to church in France!  I was stunned and asked if he ever read the Bible.  He’d never opened one, but there were so many interpretations, why bother?

IMG_1037Florent, our amazing guide, explaining the D-Day landings

 

This was a dangerous myth, perhaps even more deadly than the German guns that had killed over 20,000 Americans by August 21, 1944.  Why?  Because his eternal destiny hung in the balance, and so I asked him the question I now pose to you.

If God wanted to communicate soul-saving truth about sin, death, and how to get to Heaven…would He make His truth complicated or easy to understand? And furthermore, would He supernaturally preserve that communication from all error and misunderstanding to ensure that you grasped His redemption message?

IMG_1142Bloody Omaha (the Germans cleared away all buildings in 1944)

 

If I were God, and gave up my life to DIE in your place to save you, I’d use all of my power to keep my message simple, secure, and so easy to understand that even if you weren’t very smart you’d still get it.  Speaking of getting smart…Don Adams made this comical phrase in our title famous as Maxwell Smart’s explanation for escaping death in the TV show “Get Smart.”  Missing out on death is precisely the point here.

Thessalonica as it appears today (Acts 17)

 

Unfortunately, most people have never read the Bible and will “myth out” on Heaven by “that much”… just two feet, the distance from their head to their heart. Just like the soldier who found Hoback’s Bible said, “I was walking along the beach D-Day plus one.  I came upon the Bible and as most any person would do I picked it up.”  So, why not get smart, just pick it up, and be a Berean to see if these things are so?  The Hoback family treasured it for a very good reason, and now it’s yours to discover why.

IMG_1133.JPGNot even a matchstick to hide behind

 

If you are you too young for getting “Get Smart,” here’s Agent 86 in spy-tacular form with his famous refrain:

Max…”Missed it by that much!”

 

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“EXIT, EXIT…Flee All About It!”

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No man comes to the Father, but through Me (John 14:6).’”

Screen Shot 2019-07-19 at 10.56.09 AM.pngThe internet in 1905

 

I was in London recently and noticed something strange while riding on the Tube (the local subway).  It struck me how almost everyone was reading a newspaper!  I worked for a newspaper, so this intrigued me since no one really does this in America anymore.  Nowadays, we get our headlines instantly on our phones or cable news networks.

Screen Shot 2019-07-19 at 11.01.08 AM.pngJesus, according  to Bob Dylan, is a slow train coming

 

Another difference was the Tube stops along the line, like Piccadilly Circus or Notting Hill Gate, because “WAY OUT” marks the stairs to the street above. Most of us rarely notice the red EXIT sign above a door, unless there’s an emergency like a fire or an earthquake, so WAY OUT was pretty unique.  I mean on the flight over they make a point of directing your attention to the EXIT door, but most of us ignore EXIT signs, right?  But WAY OUT…no one misses that!

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The Underground or Tube was also London’s bomb shelter in 1940-41

 

Biblically speaking, Jesus is the only EXIT door.  He said He was “the way (out).”  Note that He claimed exclusivity…to be the only way, the only truth, and the only life.  He disqualified every other religion with those words, or He was a liar (His recorded life in the New Testament would eliminate that possibility, as would insanity to make such a bold claim).

We will all exit this world, and it may be without warning.  I had a cousin die suddenly last week.  He visited his brother, played golf, went out to dinner, and then died in his sleep.  We were all shocked, and deeply grieved!  No one saw his exit coming.

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Jesus, the only Way Out of our messed up lives 

 

The Bible says if you exit without Jesus what is on the other side will be much worse than just death (Revelation 20:11-15).  In John chapter 10, Jesus told some religious big shots that being good didn’t matter and neither did their religion.  You have to go through Him, God in human form, and He even called Himself the Door:

“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.  I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’”

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William Holman Hunt’s famous work has the doorknob inside

 

Years ago, when there was a big headline event paperboys hawked the special edition on street corners with the refrain, “Extra, Extra, read all about it!”  Today, Jesus is that big news story and those red EXIT signs you see every day are your warning that you’re going to exit this world.  They are also a reminder that Jesus is your only WAY OUT.  You can’t be good enough and religion won’t save you, so maybe open the door of your heart (Revelation 3:20).

Screen Shot 2019-07-19 at 2.15.31 PM.pngYour daily reminder to meet Jesus

The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2 that now is the time to knock. 

At the acceptable time I listened to you,
And on the day of salvation I helped you.”

Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”—

 

 

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Guns and Butter

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).”

IMG_0104Spring Gobbler 2019…no butter (ball)

 

I don’t recall much from my Economics class at MSU except that D.B. Suits wore a Hawaiian shirt when he taught us, my final grade was a measly 1.5, and if you spend all your assets on guns, then you can’t buy butter.  Assets are limited and they cannot be used twice.  If you spend it all on butter, then no guns. Basic economics.

IMG_0001.JPG“On the banks of the Red Cedar….”

 

The same goes for our non-renewable days, which if you live to be 70 years old then you’ll have about 25,000 days to spend…days you will use up by keeping yourself busy until you come to the end of your days.  Most of us use up those days at work, raising a family, or hobbies on weekends. Like a dollar spent, they are gone forever.

The Bible says we should think hard about those remaining days, number them, if we want to be wise, but no one does.  Not really.  We just jump on the hamster wheel and run. Maybe it’d help if we had a visual reminder, like thousands of marbles in a jar on our dresser that each morning we took one marble out and put it in our pocket.  Maybe that would help us use our days more wisely when we realize how short and valuable they are and use them being kind, volunteering, spending time with our kids, etc.  Maybe, but I think there’s a better way.

Screen Shot 2019-06-24 at 12.07.34 PM.pngDreaming of Eden

 

Think back to when you were a child and the “What would you wish for if a genie granted you three wishes?” moment.  Every kid knows the third wish is to have a million more wishes, right? I think that’s what God may be getting at here with numbering our days to have a heart of wisdom.  It’s not necessarily investing the 25,000 days correctly by camping with your kids or joining the Peace Corps, but realizing there is an end…a guns and butter moment where the days are all spent. Then what?

The answer is obvious…just make more days.  Make your third wish count by living forever…by getting serious about Jesus Christ.  His death and resurrection is that third wish to make a million more wishes.  Remember what He said when His friend Lazarus died in chapter 11 of the Gospel of John?

“I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

IMG_2788.JPGInside the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

 

Catch that?  Even though you die (use up all your days), you can get more days by believing in Jesus.  But believing isn’t acknowledging He existed; it’s giving up your remaining days to Him as your Lord.  You trade your remaining days by surrendering all of them to Him so you can live forever (the third wish).  Just ask Him to forgive you for all your stupid days (sin), literally come into your body, and take over as Lord.

You can live forever if Jesus is inside of your body.  Smooth as butter.

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Butchy

“‘…But who do you say that I am?’  And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ…(Matthew 16:15-16).’

Twelve Years OldNFL bound!

 

Time out!  All five of us kids flopped onto the curb.  Some of the best two-hand-touch football games were played on my street in Detroit, and Butchy led us.

Butchy was older, so he was always the official quarterback for both teams. We all looked up to him. One of those guys you never forget; he made you feel like a million bucks.  When Butchy chose to throw to you it made you feel special. You dare not drop it.

After some huffing and puffing, Butchy asked one of those playground questions kids ask like if you had three wishes or won a million bucks…“Who would you want to meet if you went back in time?”

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“Daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy Son Jesus Christ…”

 

As if possible, we deliberated it with great seriousness.  For 1971, our answers were predictable.  Jeff chose Daniel Boone.  Skinny Doogan picked Washington.  Ray grabbed Lincoln, and that left me.  The pressure was on, but I knew that the greatest “baseball card” to collect as a ten-year-old had to be Jesus.

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Another playground question…Do Lincoln and Lee talk in Heaven?

 

Looking back, it just seemed like He was the one guy you’d want to meet above anybody else.  This had nothing to do with theology.  Even then I knew Jesus would be a wow-factor guy.  He had all the answers, did miracles, and even rose from the dead!  That sunny Detroit day is still clear to me 50 years later, and sometime in the next 50 I’ll get my wish.

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The great Fess Parker

 

According to the Bible, seeing Him is a sure thing, as is meeting other famous Christians like Washington, Lincoln, and even the Apostle Peter…who saw Jesus, and heard Him ask that ‘who am I’ question in person!  Wanna’ know a secret?  You’re going to see Him too, eyeball to eyeball.  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).  So here’s my question, are you ready to meet Jesus?

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Bob is ready…are you?

 

I hope so, and I’m also hoping to see my buddies in Heaven too, especially Butchy. It’s not a fair comparison, but the way he made me feel is like Jesus does now…genuinely accepted, pretty darn special, and included right along with stars like Peter.

Peter’s answer is a classic because he caught that Jesus was God, in the flesh! Jesus threw a deep pass and Peter made a spectacular reception.  Imagine his euphoria when Jesus looked at him in that recognition moment, and then consider what he felt later on when he denied his best friend…three times. Did you know Peter was so near that Jesus heard him?  “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:61).”  Despite that rejection Jesus forgave Peter, and He can forgive you too.  I hope you receive His pass before that day when He turns to look at you (John 1:12).  You’d make a great catch.

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The second best catch of all-time!

The Immaculate Reception!

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Butch (Frank Rokowski) front and center as usual, his brother Dave, and me with a popsicle 

Peter denies Him

 

Peter Repents

 

 

 

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Rock or Reek?

IMG_0207At Pickett’s Charge on the 150th Anniversary of Gettysburg 

 

“For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).”

Church stinks, so you probably skipped Easter, right?  Trust me, I get it.  Christians do stink.  I remember ducking into my dorm room when I saw one coming down the hall at MSU.  Something about Rob literally repelled me, like the Gettysburg battle stench in 1863.

“The field is covered with dead and wounded.  Out here there is a stink unimaginable, it’s definitely more than I thought when I signed up.  All I wanted was an adventure and a little money at the age of 18, but now I’m figuring out that I’ve got to man up and get the job done if I want to survive. As I’m writing this there is very heavy firing to the right of me about 5 o’clock.  By the sound of it it’s coming right in our direction.  I better get ready.”

IMG_0193Some famous Gettysburg rocks at the 150th Anniversary

 

Just the thought of church probably gives you the Gettysburg Gag, a stink unimaginable. You’ve got good reasons too, like your spouse won’t go, your job requires rest, golf or fishing, kid’s activities, yard-work, your upbringing, the hypocrites, nice clothes, money-grubbers…there’s just no time.  But did you ever wonder the real reason that you steer clear of church?

Your indifference to Him is exposed by their “stench,” and that same repulsion I felt is really a warning that you’re spiritually dead.  Whiffing that smelly church in person on Sunday is like bursting in on your family breakfast and shouting, “Who wants to go over to the funeral home with me?  They just got some new bodies!”  In short, a Christian’s aroma (from life to life) reminds you of sin and death––your death and your sin (Romans 3:23, 6:23).

This “death to death” is not just your physical death or your spiritual deadness (Hebrews 9:27, Ephesians 2:1), but it’s also your second eternal death…a separation from God if you ignore your sin.  A Christian is like smelling salts, a rancid alarm to wake you up from your coma, and to challenge your “good enough” indifference to Jesus.  No one is truly good enough, and just one sin starts the death-stink.  “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all (James 2:10).” 

IMG_0235After Pickett re-enactor’s charged at 150th of Gettysburg

 

Friend, if you’ve sinned once, you’re in danger.  I know, I was too, but man up if you want to survive.  Death is near, to the right at about 5 o’clock, and coming in your direction. You better get ready because it’s bad news…you’re guilty of all, a criminal, and perishing. Thankfully, Easter’s empty tomb proves the death problem is solved.  Church isn’t your issue; it’s Jesus, the Rock of salvation.  He died on your cross, and if you ignore that love then guess what really stinks.  It’s your choice.  Rock or Reek?

IMG_2837.JPGThe rock where the cross stood and held the Rock of Ages

 

 

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The Jesus Nut

“Those who trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever (Psalm 125:1).

IMG_3232.JPGJerusalem!

 

Mountain peaks are never crowded.  That’s probably true because genuine trust is a rare commodity, and in alpine climbing you are putting your life in the hands of your partner, some rope, and a few metal spikes to secure against certain death.

I’ve been reading about the fabled Eiger in the Swiss Alps (13,015 feet) and the first attempts to climb its deadly North Face in the 1930’s.  In doing so, I learned a new word (always splendid fun for a writer)…belay.

Screen Shot 2019-03-18 at 9.23.40 AM.pngThe Deadly North Face of the Eiger

 

I’ve heard “belay” before, as in nautical terms when a superior officer countermands an order with, “Belay that order, Ensign!” But “belay” in mountain climbing jargon means that someone is providing support to a climber who is trying to move up the mountain.  They are an anchor-of-safety in case the other climber falls, a life-saving stopgap measure (they are tied to each other’s waist).

Screen Shot 2019-03-18 at 9.30.25 AM.pngTrue Trust

 

It’s interesting that the Psalmist listed Mount Zion as a simile for trusting in the Lord.  Mount Zion is the biblical mountain where Abraham sacrificed his son Isaac, and the spot that David purchased to build Jerusalem.  In the Bible, it is equated with complete and absolutely guaranteed unshakable trust.  Jerusalem has been conquered and destroyed many times, but Mount Zion abides forever.  I have stood in the tunnels under Jerusalem on the very bedrock of Mount Zion and touched the bus-sized foundation stones that the famous Wailing Wall rests upon above.  It will never fall.

 

 

The bedrock of Mount Zion (under the Wall)

 

The Bible, however, says that we have already fallen, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).”  Spiritually, our rope has snapped and we are plunging to our death, “…you were dead in your trespasses and sin(Ephesians 2:1).  But if we trust in Him, we are as secure as Mount Zion. If you’re not sure that your trust is a genuine, eternal, and saving Mount Zion faith, then consider the Jesus Nut.

Screen Shot 2019-03-18 at 9.14.53 AM.pngThe Jesus Nut

 

The “Jesus Nut” was a giant stainless-steel nut that attached the main rotor blades to the body on the first helicopter.  According to the 1939 inventor, Igor Sikorsky, if that nut failed then “the next person you see will be Jesus.” But it is also known in climbing circles as a crucial extra piece of gear above the belay anchor that will save both climbers in case the lead climber falls.

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Salvation gear

 

Frankly, you’d be nuts not to have a Jesus Nut on your rope because biblically speaking you’ve already fallen and without Jesus as your belay, you will perish.  As Paul said in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Your sin is as fatal as a frayed rope on the icy Eiger.

Let Him be your belay while you climb up.  If you’re at the end of your rope, call out to Him today and He will stop your fall, as it says in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “‘AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.’  Behold, now is ‘THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,’ behold, now is ‘THE DAY OF SALVATION.’”

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The Rock is Jesus

If you want to see what the Eiger was like in 1936 to the first pioneers, watch this amazing film:

The North Face trailer

Or read the book it’s based on:

The Wall of Death by Roth

 

 

 

 

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Inalienable

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear (Luke 2:8-9).

Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 2.50.28 PM.pngA modern-day shepherd looks unchanged from centuries ago

 

Shepherds stink.  Passing a truckload of hogs in August, gives you some idea what shepherds absorb from months alone with their sheep.  And in Jesus’ day, their character stunk even worse.  According to theologian Joachim Jeremias, “Most of the time they were dishonest and thieving; they led their herds onto other people’s land and pilfered the produce of the land.”

 

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 Title page of Midrash Tehillim (commentary on the Psalms)

 

A Hebrew Midrash on Psalm 23 reads, “There is no more disreputable occupation than that of a shepherd.”  Shepherds weren’t accepted in court as witnesses because they were less than non-citizens, stuck on the bottom rung of Israel’s social ladder.  The Mishnah refers to shepherds as “incompetent,and another says no one should ever feel obligated to rescue a shepherd who has fallen into a pit. In short, they were considered sub-human. And yet, the Bethlehem angel came to them first.

 

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Mister Dred Scott

 

In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott case, We think…that (black people) are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States.” In short, they were considered sub-human and an estimated 10 million Africans died in transit.  And yet, the Lord freed them from bondage after our bloody Civil War.

 

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The Nuremberg Laws as reported in The Baltimore Sun 

 

The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 targeted Jews and declared that only those of German or related blood were eligible to be Reich citizens; the remainder were classed as state subjects, without citizenship rights.  In short, they were considered sub-human and over 6 million were murdered.  And yet, the Lord rescued them and they became a nation after a devastating World War.

 

sc001744ebTwo little lambs

 

On March 29th, a new film is coming out calledUnplanned.  Some friends of mine produced it.  It’s the true story of Abby Johnson, and the plight of another people group that today is considered sub-human like the shepherds, with no voice like the slaves, defenseless like the Jews, and without any rights as citizens.  And yet, God cares about these outcasts too, even identifying as a shepherd Himself as Jeremias confirms, “The rabbis ask with amazement how, in view of the despicable nature of shepherds, one can explain why God was called ‘my shepherd’(Psalm 23)?”  Why liken Himself to a stinky outcast?

 

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Keith Green’s musical tribute to Psalm 23

 

Because He chose to love the unloved, and enjoins us, “You should defend those who cannot help themselves. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice(Proverbs 31:8-9).”  Ironically,inalienable means, “not subject to being taken away from,”and yet our present injustice has taken away 61 million babies.  If you saw what Abby saw, you’d defend their inalienable right to life, speak up for them, and see that they get justice, as would any Good Shepherd.

 

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Unplanned trailer 2019

 

 

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