Friday, February 24, 2012

Jesus' Coming Out Party!

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.  And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
"It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.' "
Matthew 4:1-4  NASB

It's Jesus' Coming Out Party!

He's just been baptized to fulfill all righteousness.  The Father has confirmed in public witness, that Jesus is His beloved Son in Whom He is well pleased.  A party should be thrown, right?


After this amazing event, Jesus is immediately led by the Spirit into a barren wasteland to meet the ultimate in fallen creation - head on - mano e mano - the Devil.  It's that same ol' "Scratch" trying to eternally secure our fallen state by trying to "re-create" man's fall in the Garden of Eden.  Only this time, he takes on the Savior of our fall.

Interesting that Satan's form is not noted to be that of a serpent as in the Garden.  What sets this encounter apart from the first is that here, this meeting is planned by God - and takes place in the desert - not a garden.

The original "Desert Storm"!

Creation v.s. Creator.

In the first encounter, Eve very feebly quotes Scripture against the cunning serpent.  Satan, very effectively, twists the Scripture like a pretzel, introducing confusion and ultimately causing the Fall of Man.  Eve's problem, along with Adam's, was that even though they heard from God, they still weren't fully convicted.  Didn't have enough Scripture in them.

Perhaps, they were too busy tending the Garden.  Perhaps they were too distracted with all the newness of Creation, making Satan's deception seem like child's play, like fishing in a barrel, ducks on the pond. 

Satan was able to snatch away the Word that was in their hearts and replaced it with a lie.  The rest is history - His Story.

Back to the opening scene, though - the battle in the desert.  Let us be firmly convinced of this fact:  The Scripture - the very concrete, written Word, directly from the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit - tells us that Jesus is not only fully man, but also fully God.  He is Creator and King.  He is from the beginning, he is the  End.

Just a thought:  Jesus, being Creator - as well as Savior - He is the ONLY SELF-MADE MAN!

Jesus truly has His stuff together!

"In Him dwells the fullness of God in bodily form."
Colossians 2:9

He has been led by the Spirit into the battle.  Exercising complete control, even in His self-imposed weakness from fasting, He has full discipline of Body, Soul, and Mind.  He definitely has his wits about Him.

Satan gets in His face and twists the Scripture like a Twizzler.  But, this time - he does so in the face of the One Who wrote the Book! 

Jesus tells Satan that man (us in Christ) does not live by the Garden of Eden, with all of its newness, food, clothing, pleasure, shelter/security, entertainment, etc. - alone - but, by every God breathed, God-written-down-Word that has proceeded from the same mouth that said, "Let there be Light!"

We heed the Creator - NOT the creation!

Jesus unleashes the first atomic bomb at our adversary - two more to go!  May I invite you all to be still and enjoy the spiritual KABOOM!
 How do you read it?  What do you think?

Sharing Jesus' Coming Out Party this week with:
Brag on God Fridays at Beholding Glory

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pass the Bread, Please: Read the Labels

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.  And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
"It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.' "
Matthew 4:1-4  NASB

In my recent bout with a back injury and its after effects, my ruptured disk produced a pinched sciatic nerve and introduced me to a new companion - pain.  Funny thing about pain, it's a gift that keeps on giving!  Throughout the duration of my painful experience, I started exhibiting other symptoms.  My blood pressure went sky high - as high as 170 over 97 - and, my bad cholesterol level went as high as 165.  Then, as if to birth a set of triplets making the "family" complete, my sugar levels elevated to around 128.  Diabetes runs rampant in my family history - I was unnerved.

Before the work related accident that put me on this painful pathway, I basically led a carefree life in relation to health and nutrition.  For instance - consider a typical food shopping trip.  I would grab a cart and say, "Ready of not, here I come!"  I'd see what I liked on the shelves and proceed to dump it into the cart - forsaking the health conscious warnings from my all too wise wife.  My attitude, you see, went something like this:  "What God has blessed me with (potato chips, snacks, junk food in general) He won't hurt me."  I was depending on God to bless my bad choices!

I could care less as to what went into the food I was buying - it could have been bread made from stones, for all I knew.  To me, "processed" meant that they wrapped it in plastic to keep it fresh.  How bad could it be?  I needed it.  I liked it.  I wanted it.  I bought it.  I trusted the good ol' USDA - the world - to meet my needs -   trusting the world, our legislators, and our food inspectors to produce the things I needed to sustain my high standard of living large.

All that went out the window with that visit to my doctor.  His response to my predicament:  "Take a pill and you'll be alright.  There's been so much advancement in the field of medicine.  With this pill you'll be able to eat what you want and still have a normal life - just have some moderation."

You know, that phrase - "everything in moderation" sounds like it might be in the Bible - but it isn't.

I asked Doc, "Will I ever get off this medication?"

He shook his head.  "Not likely.  You'll have to take it for the rest of your life."

You see, Doc's experience with his patients was that they relied on the medicine apart from a changed diet and changed lifestyle activity.  His expertise, although it did help me lower my cholesterol and blood pressure, was still like the world.  Since it was founded on the world's ways - assuming that in the face of health threats, medication removes the need for a changed life.

My sugar levels, after a second blood test, came back normal.  But, not before giving me a good scare - especially with my family's diabetic history. I had a choice to make.  Just like Jesus in the Biblical account of Matthew 4.  Here we read the details of the face-off between Jesus in the desert tempted by Satan.  Satan suggests a cure for Jesus' hunger - turning stones to bread.  Jesus, however - wouldn't bite.  Jesus had read the labels on that brand of bread and knew the ingredients to be inferior - if not downright poisonous.  Only the Bread from Heaven - the Word of God - can truly satisfy hunger pains.

I had heard the opinion of my doctor, based upon his observation over so many years.  Perhaps all those folks who took the medications but made no life changes just never knew there was a higher authority on the subject.  A second opinion was in order - a REAL Authority - One Whose penmanship on the prescription sheet I could actually read!

I went to the Lord - and the Bread of His Word.  After all - He created this body of mine - shouldn't He know what my best options are?  As if I were back in the Garden of Eden, I listened, as the Lord commanded Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28, " Fill the earth, and subdue it."  Don't let it rule you - you rule it!

And, later on in Genesis 2:15, "The Lord took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it, and keep it."  The Lord was telling me to own it - to take ownership - not shirk my responsibilities by laying them on government inspectors, food companies, and doctors.  They are all fine in their place.   But the Lord - He is to be the FIRST One consulted - not the last when all else fails.

This was a call to a total life change - owning my health issues and exercising proper stewardship of my life here on earth.

"Whatever, then, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."  
I Corinthians 10:31 

So, back to our Matthew 4 verse - be picky about the bread you eat.  Read the label.  Be choosey about what is allowed in the eye gate, the mouth-gate - where is the most nutritional value found.

Now, I joined my wife in label reading, shopping more carefully for fat, sodium, and sugar content.  You bet - our food bill is much higher.  The cost is greater.  But, so too, the rewards.

I've lost weight, have renewed energy, greater mental focus, and all my blood pressure and cholesterol levels are returning to normal.  I've made a life change - the medications are not life long.

Satan is always about convincing us that his stones turned to bread will fill our needs.  We have the pageantry of world history to prove that his "medications" only make one more dependent on a false fix, when what is really wanting is a changed life and a renewal of personal stewardship.

My dependency these days is on what I read on product labels in grocery stores - no doubt - but, moreso, I am wholly dependent on His Word to bring health to my body, soul, and spirit.  What I don't read CAN kill me!  Throw away Satan's stones and pass the Bread of His Word, please.   I've read that Label - I believe - and therein is my life!

How do you read it?  What do you think?

Sharing Pass the Bread, Please: Read the Labels this week with:
Brag on God Fridays at Beholding Glory

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reading the Red and Praying the Power

Taking a line from my favorite movie trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, I put myself in Bilbo's place and say, with paper and pen, "Where to begin?"

"Ah, yes!"  The pen is dipped into the inkwell, I sit back, ponder, pray, put the pen down, pray some more.  I think of Jesus teaching, speaking from an elevated spot - He comes into focus.

He invites me, "Come to me, all - that means you, Ed - who are weary and heavy laden, 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 soul, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  (Matthew 11:27-29)

From there I am transported back to my desk.  I pick up my pen, and the pen remembers that to build a house you must make the foundation sure.  So, as you read the foundation being dug, here, for what will be these series of blog posts and/or studies and/or ramblings - remember that this all begins and ends with JESUS.

There is Joy in the Journey!

Let's start this journey with my PRIDE.  I know, I know, this is a peculiar start, but after I share this with you, gentle reader, this journey will make sense - foundations need time to settle and firm up - to become solid - if you hope to build a house on firm footing.  How wonderful of the Lord to build a life founded in Him - to use good solid ROCK that you - that I - stumble upon.  Better to stumble, stub your foot on, trip over such a ROCK, than for this ROCK to fall on you - fall on ME - and be ground to powder.  (Matthew 21:44)

Anyway, Pride - MY Pride . . .

I am a proud man.  I pride myself by being equipped by the Lord with a strong back - and a stubborn streak to finish what I start.  I have always taken this "equipping" to my workplace.  I've been a bookseller for three decades and am currently employed by a corporate bookselling giant in the shipping and receiving department.  My old fashioned work ethic makes me the strong man to handle the volume of heavy work that is required to keep inventory on the floor for bookstore enthusiasts.  Shipping and receiving in such a venue is a job for young, strong, able bodied persons.  At age 56, I feel that I still belong in this category.  A workhorse my whole life - why should being middle-aged change that?

Recently, we were shipping out textbook returns on pallets.  Now, each box weighs about 50-60 pounds with 35 boxes to a pallet.  You do the math.  Consider this particular day, I am loading FOUR pallets of books onto the truck.  I don't ask for help, after all - I don't need it.  I take the pallet jack, plug it into the pallet, pump the jack up, roll the pallet up to the dock deck, push the hydrolic button to lift the platform to be level with the truck.

It's cold outside and condensation has formed on the platform - it's slippery on the dock.  I admit, I don't have the right shoes for this kind of work.

I get two pallets in and have two more to go.  I set up the third pallet stand to roll it onto the platform - this is the heaviest one of all - probably weighing about 1,600 pounds to a ton (no fooling)!  I strain to pull it onto the platform.  It's not going anywhere.  I muster all my physical might - but NOT  my vocal cords to yell for help.  Pulling up the incline to the platform, my foot slips on the damp flooring and I fall - about two feet - on my backside.  I don't think I land too hard - I really don't even remember.

The truck driver sees this and assists me in putting the rest of the pallets in, and off he goes.  I go on with my day - not thinking much of my fall.  I get bumps and bruises all the time in this type of work - just another day at the office.

Over the course of four days back pain grew steadily worse.  This happened on a Thursday - by the following Tuesday I couldn't even tie my shoes.  I actually had to call in sick - and I NEVER do that!  I spent the morning with a chiropracter.  X-rays revealed a herniated disc.  Not only that - but, also come to visit - and stay a while - was the marvelous pain of the sciatic nerve to keep company with the pain in the back.  The sciatic condition has the pleasure of traveling from my damaged disc, down my right leg, all the way to the bottom of my right foot.

THE RESULT:  I am out of work for ten weeks.  No lifting.  No pulling.  No loading.  Just rest and rehabilitation.  Removed from my former comfort zone - I am now living in a totally new place.  And, sorry - there's just no room for PRIDE in that place.

From day one of my convalescence, I started a new chapter in my BIble reading - now that I would have the time to commit to it.  In the past, I've read through the Bible at least half a dozen times - basically blasting through, never stopping long enough to really hear the Lord.  Oh, sure - some of it definitely stuck to the sides of my heart and brain - but never stopping to smell the fresh air or dine at the roadside table.  I mean - I'm a guy - and when they travel, guys like to get there.  We hate to stop.  We like to get there in the shortest possible time.  NOT this time, however!

The Lord spoke to me - I was listening - flat on my back now, I had nowhere to go, nothing to do - BUT listen.  He put this into my spirit:

"Read the Red, and Pray the Power."

I was to slow down, read the Bible - very slowly - ALL the red letters in my Bible that you find in the New Testament causing the Words of Jesus to jump off the page.  I was to look up the Greek and Hebrew original words and definitions of these Words - and not move on until the Lord was finished with me - till I got ALL the nourishment I could get out of the passage.

I was to READ - THINK - PRAY - and LIVE each passage studied.  This WORD, this BIBLE, these RED LETTERS, were HIS direct Word to me - to INSTRUCT me - FEED me - CHANGE me - and MOVE me onto a new course - a new path in my walk with Him - to JOURNAL THIS JOURNEY.

"Okay," I said to myself - "Let's start!"

The first Red Letters I came to were in Matthew 3:15.  In my wounded state, I was eager for the Lord to show me His way, to speak to me - right where I was at.  I had asked, "Why now?  Why am I hurt when my co-workers need me most?"  You see - it was fast approaching the Thanksgiving and Christmas break and the"rush" of the holiday season.  In the retail world, this is when all hands must be on deck and ready to work the longest and in some cases - most trying of days to please the public fervor for material goods.  And, here I was - unable to wait on customers or to do much of anything except - WAIT ON THE LORD.

Jesus never fails.  Matthew 3:15 reads:

"Permit it at this time; (let it b e so now) for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness."

I know that the text deals with Jesus allowing John to Baptize Him - but the Lord was speaking to me - directly addressing my current situation.  In my spirit, I felt the Lord say to me:

"Let it be so now.  I'm going to use this time to BREAK you - to RE-MAKE you - MOLD you into MY IMAGE.  I'm taking you on this journey.  You need not run from it - but EMBRACE it - this is a  GIFT - not a curse.  You need to lighten your load, pack properly, and, oh, by the way - you need better shoes!  Better equipment!"

So, I didn't run away.  I ran to it.  During this time, He has led me through the most repentant, most sincere prayers of my Christian experience.  He emptied me of the garbage in my past.  I gave Him my past - my present - my future.  I not only re-opened my heart to Him, but I threw open every nook, every cranny, every closet, every dresser drawer, every cabinet. I threw open the windows, the shutters, the doors to the basements in my heart.  He was to inhabit everything - like the hymnist writes, "Not a mite do I withhold!"

These red letters are to me, His Footprints.  I hear Him say, "This is the way, walk in it."  With my NEW NO-SLIP SHOES!

I walk ever so slowly, ever so carefully.  I sit down, I take a rest, I eat, but, most importantly, I LISTEN.  With being still, and knowing that He is God, I HEAR His conversation with me - His challenge as recorded in Luke 10:21, "How do you read it?"   And, from its cousin verse in Matthew 18:12, "What do you think?"

So . . what do YOU think?

Just a simple sheep grazing in solitude and contemplation - in quietness and contentment - I know PEACE.  And, as I enjoy good hospitality - I want to share here, from my SHEEP'S PEN - the fruit of following our Shepherd.

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