Monthly Archives: November 2015

Gratitude – the value of seeking God, not God’s gifts, Part III

Ten lepers sought cleansing.  Ten received it as they went on their way to the priest.  That action was necessary.  The same point is made in John 9:6-7.  Jesus told the blind man to “Go…wash in the pool of Siloam….  So he went and washed, and came home seeing.”

If Jesus gives freely, we accept willingly.  If Jesus establishes conditions, we comply.  It’s his right to determine how his benefactions come.

Once we receive his grace, our response determines our nature.  The nine, filled with gratitude turned inward, rushed off to re-take their positions in society.  The one, filled with gratitude turned outward, returned to his benefactor.  If, like the nine we rush on with our life, we want only God’s benefit, not God himself.  If, like the one we return to praise, extol and submit to Jesus, we gain a new lease on life.

The needed lesson:  it’s always more important to develop a personal relationship with Jesus than to receive a favor from Jesus, a blessing from Jesus, an answered prayer from Jesus.  We should always value HIM, not what he gives.  We may get what we want from God.  Or we may not.  Whether we do or not, will we be grateful that we know him whom to know is to have everlasting life?  John 17:3

So what do we want most from God?

Healing…or knowing the Healer?

Food…or knowing the Bread of Life?

Finances…or knowing the Owner of all?

Security…or knowing the Refuge of seekers?

The nine went away…to the priest, their homes…a new physical life.  The one went back to Jesus, praising him…then to the priest, his home, but most importantly, to the new spiritual life gained by personally, face-to-face and eye-to-eye seeing God Almighty in the Flesh.

Which will we follow?    -Finis –

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Gratitude – examples of absence abound, Part II

The Philistines attacked Keilah, but Saul didn’t act to rescue them.  David heard of the attack and, under God’s direction, raced to the scene, attacked and scattered the enemy, restoring peace to the city.

When David heard that Saul mobilized his army, he asked God two questions.  Would Saul come?  Yes.  Would the people of Keilah surrender him to Saul?  Yes.

The people of Keilah showed gratitude to the man who wouldn’t help them and ingratitude to the man who had.


A San Diego businessman specialized in customer satisfaction.  For a particular reason:  if his fence-building employees performed well, customers would tell maybe two people; if they did poorly, those same customers would tell at least twelve people!  It’s true; we are far more apt to complain of poor than appreciate good service.


After the Americans defeated the British at New Orleans in January, 1815, the Lower House of the Louisiana Legislature voted a resolution of thanks by name to all ranks of officers—except one.  Nowhere in the long list was General Andrew Jackson’s name, the man most responsible for the victory.  For an obvious reason:  when, in December, 1814, the House voted to surrender the city to the British, Jackson dismissed the legislature and ruled by martial law.  Revenge will always be ungrateful.


After David Livingstone died, his faithful African servants carried his decomposing corpse 9 months and a 1000 miles to the coast.  And when they arrived, British authorities dismissed them without any recognition.  Racism will hardly ever be grateful.


Jesus had multiple experiences of ingratitude.  Luke 17:11-19 records one from the Master’s Later Perean Ministry.  In the religious no-man’s-land-border between Samaria and Galilee, lepers congregated with their own kind, despite nationality.  They stood afar and shouted their appeal for cleansing.  All ten received it; but only one returned to THANK his benefactor.

– End Part II –

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Gratitude – expressing demands awareness of God, Part I

The Bible assumes our need to thank, glorify, praise and otherwise exalt Almighty God.  Jesus reinforced that assumption when he began the Model Prayer with, “Our Father in Heaven.”  On the D-Day landings, ships’ loudspeakers blared various messages in different languages:  the British heard cries of “Remember Coventry; remember Dunkirk.”  The French heard that they would die on the beloved shores of France, but they would not turn back.  The military authorities aboard exhorted officers in the Higgins’ boats to get their troops ashore, to save their weapons and ammunition and, if they had any strength left, to save themselves.

The two messages most heard that day, and remembered no matter the intervening years were, “Away all boats” and, last of all in statement and first of all in importance, over the ships’ loudspeakers and across the waves of Biscay, the mournful, steady voices of chaplains in each language plaintively appealing, “Our Father, Who art in Heaven….”  With those resounding words ringing in their minds thousands of men in Higgins’ boats roared ashore at the D-Day invasion beaches, 6 June, 1944.

God’s Priority precedes any true gratitude.  The idea of saying “I’m thankful” to NO ONE, refusing to acknowledge God in Christ as our Benefactor, mocks the very idea of Thanksgiving.

– End Part I –

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Sound – monstrous heard afar

The eruption of Krakatoa, August 26-28, 1883, blew itself apart.  The resulting tsunami carried destruction inland in 50 foot waves, killing 36,000 people.  It tore an ocean-going vessel from a two-ton mooring buoy in the Sunda Strait, hoisted it to its crest, carried it a half-mile inland, then dropped it thunderously, killing the entire crew.  The ship straddled the river and only disappeared from that position in the 1980’s.

What got everyone’s attention was the sound.  In the community of Rodriguez the chief of police wrote in his official diary that on the night of August 26-27, he heard the “distant roar of heavy guns” that continued intermittently for 3-4 hours, then at 3 PM August 27 reverberated as two colossal explosions.  He didn’t hear guns, however.  He did hear Krakatoa, some 2968 mile away destroying itself.  Nearly 3000 miles away!  Very likely the loudest sound ever heard on earth, having been heard that far away.  Krakatoa, 257, 262-265

One sound has been louder, more persistent, heard in more places from its place of origin, leaving no doubt of its birthplace and its reason for existing:  the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once-for-all given on Mount Calvary outside Jerusalem.  The sound it produced—of glory and grace and peace, that God is in Christ, forgiving all sinners, circles the globe every Sunday as God’s people gather for worship, every weekday as they gather to study the Bible and pray, as individual believers witness to non-Christian friends or perform any good work in Christ’s name.  A sound perfectly achieved by the Lamb of God, it’s constantly, if imperfectly, communicated by his people.  Let the sound continue.  Let it grow.  Let it be heard everywhere, by everyone, bringing conviction to the unsaved and confidence to Christ’s believers.  Jesus Christ saves!

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Self – scripture’s portrait of us as accurate, not pretty

Abraham Lincoln stood about 6’4”, but his looks stood quite a lot lower.  His face looked considerably handsomer when lighted by his smile.  But he wouldn’t have been a finalist in any looking contest.

With some justification, Matthew Brady claimed that his portrait of Lincoln, taken after his Cooper Union speech, helped make him President.  Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles commissioned a portrait of the President that he considered a good likeness.  The President didn’t disagree, but had a story.  A western man secretly had himself painted to give his wife a birthday present.  But her response on first seeing it was, “Horribly like.”  Which Lincoln considered appropriate to Welles’ portrait of him.  War years III, 428

Well…we all like our best side photographed.  Some of us think we have no “best side.”  Any picture is “horribly like” us.

Which is humiliatingly true of all spiritually.  Scripture everywhere, once we left the innocence and security of Eden, paints us in unflattering, brutal, nothing-beautiful and everything-homely tones.  And every single frame accurate!

That view of us collides with our view of us.  We consider ourselves not bad looking spiritually if equating spiritual with moral.  Which scripture doesn’t and won’t.  However much we “clean up morally,” we’re still ugly spiritually if outside Christ’s grace.  Only conversion to him from our lost estate, secured by his grace and our obedience in repentance and baptism, gives us a new look, a fancy look, a pretty look, a handsome look—and all because we look like Jesus in our new state.

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Evangelism – something like and unlike college recruiting

It happens to every coach in any collegiate sport.  This blog uses Rocky Long, football coach at San Diego State University—SDSU—for the simple reason that the writer saw the potential for spiritual truth as he read the article.

Coach Long would love to have used his schedule’s only bye week to relax, watch football and eat hot dogs.  The demands of recruiting instead called him and his assistant coaches to be scouting high school games.

While a successful 2015 season make recruiting easier for SDSU, it doesn’t eliminate the challenge of schools with consistent winning records and loads of scholarships.  As the director of SDSU’s player personnel noted, identifying the skills needed in football players was easy; getting the attention of players to focus on SDSU poses a huge challenge.

As Jesus made clear in Matthew 13:18-23, various people respond to Gospel preaching.  Verse 22 may include a majority of responders.  While getting people interested in Jesus is difficult, calling them to a single-minded focus on Jesus is much harder.  All the competition offered even in the Master’s world, and multiplied exponentially in ours, produces half-hearted religiosity, not down-deep commitment to Jesus.

Another difference distinguishes the Gospel message from football recruiters.  The latter have an eye for speed, good hands, healthy legs and bodies, throwing or blocking skills.  Jesus demands only faith in him as God’s Son and a willingness to deny-self in discipleship.  However, the very difficulty of self-denial in people so aware of THEMSELVES  is the major obstacle in evangelism.  To our shame as Christians, it’s so difficult that we hardly mention the requirement when talking to potential prospects.  Of course, making self-denial clear to prospects will limit the number of people won to Christ.  And in a church culture where Numbers Count, and BIG numbers count more than small ones, ignoring self-denial is easy when it’s far easier to speak of fellowship and joy and forgiveness.

However, it also presents a question:  are we really going to prefer NUMBERS of converts when Jesus emphasized SELF-DENIAL?  If that was good enough for him, how could have a better idea?

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Affordability – of homes is laughable

My wife lately shared information she considered hilariously oxymoronic:  that affordable housing existed in San Diego.  I quickly read the column.  Indeed, the writer assured us:  we could still get a house in San Diego for “a lot less” than we thought.  For a guy who purchased a new home in Chula Vista for $31,500 in 1974, I got interested—without faith in the assertion.

Sure enough, the columnist paraded as “affordable” homes new one and two-story homes in the San Diego suburb that has a big plastic lemon advertising its downtown.  Those homes, which had recently sold out, were priced at ONLY from the  low $400,000 to mid $500,000.  Affordability San Diego County style!  Union-Tribune, 11/7/15

I wondered if the columnist had a straight face when using the word “affordability” in the same sentence as $400,000 to $500,000!  Or perhaps she was giggling, or even convulsed with laughter.  If anyone in another state reads this, you could think that California really is the land of fruit cakes and nuts.  You at least need to know that sunshine costs a lot more now in California than in previous decades.  You might wonder how in the world most people can afford to pay such colossal mortgages.  Don’t know!  Wonder myself!

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Jesus – the unrecognized benefactor, John 5

A young, crippled Union soldier stood near the War Department, cursing every administrator he could name, including President Lincoln.  The President happened by, took time to approach the lad and asked what his problem was.

The soldier angrily replied that he had been discharged but couldn’t get his severance pay.  Without identifying himself, Lincoln said he had once been a lawyer and maybe he could help.  Taking the paperwork, he sat under a tree, read it, wrote a note on the back of a page, gave it back and told the boy to take it to a certain War Department bureaucrat.

Off the mysterious former lawyer walked.  A man from New Mexico watched it all and asked the private if he knew who had helped him?  No, he replied; all he knew, it was some “ugly old fellow” who pretended to be a lawyer.  The man revealed the name of his unrecognized benefactor.  He accompanied the soldier to the War Department and watched as it paid the man.  The man allowed that he was torn between shame and pleasure that he had cursed the President of the United States to his face.  War Years III, p. 463

The crippled man in John 5 could see Jesus approach.  Without identifying himself, Jesus queried his interest in getting well, then cured him of life-long paralysis.  Without further ado, Jesus walked away.  But when he saw the man in the temple and preached a mini-sermon, the man knew it was Jesus.  (We may think someone told him but, in reality, if you ever heard Jesus preach anything, you wouldn’t doubt who it was.)

Jesus Christ remains humanity’s benefactor, with the Bible repeatedly identifying him as the Creator, Sustainer and Finisher of all that is.  Since our culture suffers abysmal ignorance of God’s word, we fail to recognize him.  In John 9, the man born blind couldn’t see Jesus, but knew his benefactor when told to go, wash in the Pool of Siloam.  That man represents Christian believers.  We don’t see Christ now, but we love and still believe in him, I Peter 1:8-9.  In that belief we receive daily bread and the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

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Jesus – the mainmast of Christianity

The great, graceful, tall wood sailing ships carried every conceivable cargo to every possible port, world-wide.  They sailed in calm and angry seas, when zephyrs kissed the sails and hurricanes tore them to shreds.

Whatever the circumstance, they needed an intact mainmast to remain under control.  And, as the ships involved in the great Trafalgar battle proved, those that lost their mainmast, around which all other masts congregated, lost all power of direction and control.  The ship’s movement was jerky, not smooth, its motion uncertain, not predictable, its effect on everything on or below decks malicious, not benign.  Losing the mainmast, they lost the ship as a powerful force at sea.  Trafalgar:  The Nelson Touch, p. 225.

Spiritual warfare exists in Christian circles today between those who remain faithful to the Biblical model and those who seek an ecumenical middle ground with non-Christian groups.  The apologists of compromise assure us that Christianity remains viable, however defined and whatever its doctrinal substance.  That’s a Satanic lie.  Christianity as revealed in the New Testament is mainmasted by the truth that Jesus Christ is God in the Flesh as God’s One and Only Son, making him the only way to God and Christianity the single message of forgiveness.  Without that spiritual mainmast Jesus Christ is at most a demonstrable fraud and at best a misguided idealist.  With the result that Christianity is dismasted and wallows helplessly in the roiling sea of sinful mortals building vessels they hope will reach shore somewhere!

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