Friday, April 27, 2012

The Bloody Nose

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:5

In his brilliant, anointed, yet somewhat fictional one man play, Witnesses, actor, Curt Cloninger portrays a tailor in one of the seven short acts reminiscing about the life of Jesus.

In this scene, Cloninger reminisces about what it was like to grow up with Jesus as a boy.  Although this point in Jesus' life is not recorded in Scripture, we can have a good idea of what He might have been like just by the way Jesus lived His adult life.

The scene - as I remember - opens with Cloninger folding clothes.  He is talking to an unseen reporter who is talking to seven witnesses about who Jesus was, is, and is about to become:

Jesus?  You want to know about Jesus?  I would be very glad to tell you!  About seventeen years ago, I was a boy - the only child of my mother who had just been widowed.  Because she depended on me to later take care of her, she was very protective of me - I was her only son, and I was never to get hurt.  This made me, and my reputation in our village, a 'mama's boy'.  The boys in the village called me a 'sissy'.

One day, on my way home from synagogue school, I'm walking by myself when I hear footsteps closing in behind me.  I turn around, and see the neighborhood bully and his gang closing in.  I see in his eyes that I am to be his next victim!  I start to run, but they're bigger and faster than me.  In a matter of a few seconds, I am surrounded!

One of the gang grabs my books and knocks them to the ground saying, "Looks like we have a bookworm here.  Let's see if he likes to eat dirt!" 

The bully grabs me, and throws me to the ground.  He sits on my chest, and starts to shove dirt into my mouth, screaming at me, saying, "What's the matter you little sissy, dirt got your tongue?"

I start to cry, which incites this pack of boys to act like wild animals.  He is sitting on top of me, shoving dirt into my mouth, and I can't breathe!

At this moment, I hear some commotion starting from the back of the pack.  A parting of the bully's gang.  I feel the bully being lifted off of me.  I slowly open my eyes hoping to see a very large adult taking charge of this riot.  But, what I see is a boy - much smaller than the bully - about my age.  

The boy speaks, "If you want to pick on somebody, why don't you pick on me?"

The bully sees the boy's size.  His eyes turn red with anger.  The bully clenches his fist and swings at the boy, totally connecting with the boy's nose.  More blood than I've ever seen gushes from this boy's nose, covering him and getting some on my clothes.  From where I am, I can see this boy's fists clenched, but - at his side.  He then raises his arms, forming a "T" or cross shape.  Arms open wide, inviting the bully - for a hug.  The bully stands there expecting the boy to retaliate.  But, this much smaller boy just stands there with this peaceful expression on his blood matted face.  

Well, the bully doesn't know what to do.  He mutters something to his gang, and walks off shaking his head, leaving me and this boy alone. 

This boy drops his hands, and holds one out to me.  He gives me a hand up, and brushes the dirt off of me.  He looks me in the eye, and says with a small grin, "We were almost done for, weren't we?  My name is Jesus."  

"Thank you, Jesus, for saving me."  I say.

He says, "Aw . . . that's what I'm here for.  Come with Me to My Father's house and we'll have a meal together!  I hope you like loaves and fishes!"

The words for "gentle" in the Greek are "praupathin", "praus", and "prautes".  They mean meekness, gentleness, and humility.  They come from the Greek word, "pascho", which means to be acted upon, to endure.  It gets its foundation from the Hebrew word, "pasach", which means to become lame, not strike back!

In boxers terms, it means, "to pull your punches."  Putting it all together, it means to hold back from striking back, in humility, gentleness, meekness - even though you have the power to retaliate and destroy the one who started it!

In the Beatitudes that Jesus is giving us here in Matthew 5, these are attitudes He wants us to have because He first had them.  These attitudes are not aspirations of our Lord, but are accomplishments.

And, if we follow Him, He will give these attitudes to us!  One word from Him could have destroyed the entire universe.  Yet, not opening his mouth, in full submission, He saved it!

The next time that the world gives you a bloody nose, hold out your hands - the world needs a hug.  And, you'll win the world, NOT be destroyed by it!

How do you read?  What do you think?

P.S.  To make my point in this post, I have borrowed liberally from the works of Curt Cloninger - probably the premier Christian storyteller in ministry today.  His works, DVD's, blog, and performance schedules are available at his website HERE.  I love the motto that sums up his work and ministry:   
"Good stories.  Well told.  Lasting Impression."

Sharing a Bloody Nose this week with:
Faith Filled Fridays at Beholding Glory

Friday, April 20, 2012

Joy Comes in the Mourning

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Matthew 5:4

In this world, life brings many opportunities to mourn, to grieve.  Loss of a loved one, whether a person or a pet.  Loss of a prized possession, a family heirloom - the one that was entrusted to you.

Loss of a dear friend, over some stupid argument.

Loss when your favorite team loses a game, even.  I'm a Brooklyn Dodger, Philadelphia Phillie, Philadelphia Eagles fan - trust me - I know a lot about loss in this instance!

Loss of a job, whether you quit or were fired - great expectations flushed down the drain of disappointment.  Loss of power, just when that program you've always wanted to watch comes on, or when  you're in the middle of doing something where electricity is needed.  Loss of sick days and benefits due to a restructuring of the company.  Loss of recognition, when you don't get noticed.  Loss of weight . . .

Well, depending . . . that one isn't so bad.

As you can see, the list could go on and on.  So, what is Jesus talking about?  As always, let us turn to our friend, the Greek language.  To "mourn" in the Greek is "pentheo" which means "to lament".

Lament over what?  According to Webster's Complete Unabridged Dictionary, a "mourner" is a person who professes repentance for sins, with the desire for salvation.


So, to mourn in this fashion - according to the Bible - is to experience another desirable result - comfort - when sin is confessed and salvation is come!

Again, the Greek.  The word "comfort" is "parakaleo".  Before we look at the entire word, let's break it down into little tasty morsels: "para" means to come beside, and "kaleo" means to call, or called one.

"Kaleo" comes from "kletos", which means to be sent from God with invitation.

Putting it altogether, "parakaleo" means to get encouragement, exhortation, by the coming alongside of the invited (called, sent) guest.  In other Greek texts, the word for the Holy Spirit is "parakletos", which means comforter.  He is the invited guest, the invited Spirit, sent by God at our conversion.  He is sent by God, He is the promise of God, He is the Breath of God, the Teacher from God.  The Sanctifier - all ours at our turning from the World - the turning from all our sins.

Think of it this way - your sins and the way of the world has left you cold.

You're freezing, you're uncomfortable.  You need warmth.  So, you turn (repent) of your sins and ask God (Jesus) for a blanket.  He gives what is much more than a blanket - He gives you a Comforter.  The Comforter wraps around you, restoring warmth, and life to your body and soul.

Read and listen with new eyes and ears to Luke 11:13:

How much more will your heavenly Father give (kletos - call, send) the Holy Spirit (parakletos - comforter, teacher, instructor, breath of God, sanctifier) to those who ask (kaleo - invite) him (in).

Now, with new understanding, let's turn again to Matthew 5:4 and read into what we've been taught.

Blessed are those who lament over their sins, confess (agree with Me) their sins, turn from their sins, and turn to Me.  

For they get with their invitation of Me - encouragement, exhortation, new breath in their souls, a correction of bad behavior, a true Teacher in the Word of God, warmth from the chill of death, and one that will keep your commitment to Me, the Parakletos, not for comfort in this world, but peace and eternal life with Me!

Finally, our Lord wants to show us two men, two attitudes, and two results in Luke 18:9-14: 

And, He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:  Two men went up to the temple to pray - one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The pharisee stood and was praying this to himself:  "God, I thank you that I am not like other people - swindlers, unjust adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week.  I pay tithes of all I get!"  

But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"  

I tell you, this man went to his house justified (comforted) rather than the other, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted!'

How do you read?  What do you think?

Sharing Joy Coming in the Mourning this week with:
Faith Filled Fridays at Beholding Glory

Friday, April 13, 2012

In for the Long Haul

"Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
Matthew 5:3

To run in a marathon is to run at the best of your ability - running smart - running at your top speed - running a course well studied - for 26 miles.

The "marathon" got is start in 490 BC, when Pheidippides ran 26 miles from the city of Marathon to the city of Athens carrying news of the Greek victory over the Persians.  Ever since that time, the re-enactment of that event is played out in athletic competitions worldwide.

There's an interesting thing about running a marathon of 26 miles - a physical phenomenon.  There's something that happens to each runner in the course of running the distance.  That something is called, "hitting the wall."

"Hitting the wall" happens right around the 20 mile mark, when the body's fuel is virtually depleted and willpower becomes crucial to being able to finish the course.  The runner begins to cower.  He literally begins to beg for air and energy.  His body begins to shut down causing the excrement of bowel and other body fluids.  He actually begins to die mentally, and to some point, physically.  It is at this point that he must forget his flesh - his physical being - and, let his spirit - his competitiveness, his willpower - take over.  This is when he is running on fumes.

As the runner hits the wall, his body, soul, and spirit say to each other, "Please, one more breath.  Just one more step.  Just one more burst of energy."  He says this to himself over and over in the course of the last 6 miles.  Nothing is replenishing the runner.  For the last 6 miles is both physically and mentally bankrupt.

If the runner has been successful with the mental first, and physical training second, coercing himself across the finish line, he can expect to win his prize!

A medal?


Money . . . cash prizes?


But, the prize most wanted by every runner at this point isn't gold or greenbacks.  The runner wants only to rest.  To breathe.  Oh!  For a cup of water!!

Runners respond differently upon finishing.  Some pump their fist in triumphant ecstasy.

Some just barely finish, and stumble over the line on hands and knees, heaving with labored breath.

The real point of interest though, is the one who finishes last.  Crowds gather, anticipation is high.  There are questions asked, "When will he get here?  Most have finished two or three, hours ago!  It's going on six hours, now - where is the last runner?"

Finally, the last contestant is on the horizon!

As he nears, the runner is seen limping, almost crawling, his running uniform is stained with his own excrement.  The look on his face is what one looks like when they're in shock.  The brain cells fried.  But, through the swirl of sweat, emotion, and rubber-numbed limbs, the runner becomes aware of a swelling of sound.  Applause.  The spectators are applauding!

You see, the best applause is not for who finished first.  
The best is reserved for who has finished last.  

As this runner barely makes it over the line, he is met with a thunderous applause!  Medical staff are waiting to treat him and comfort him after his ordeal.  You can't help but notice that this runner is a sweaty, smelly, filthy mess.  But, that doesn't matter now.  All that matters is that he finished.

It doesn't matter that he is a sweaty, smelly, filthy mess.  What matters is that he's HOME now!

Now.  Where did we start this off from?  Ah, yes - Matthew 5:3:

 "Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."

Again, we go to the Greek:  The word, "poor" in the Greek is "ptochos", which means, "begging, cowering, bent over, humbled, feeling worthless because you have nothing left to give."

The word, "spirit" in the Greek is "pneuma", which is where we get the word, "pneumonia"Pneuma means "breath, blowing wind".  When we have pneumonia, we have difficulty breathing with our inflamed lungs due to congestion - lungs filled with phlegm.  Now, let's put it all together - hearing the Words of Jesus at the outset of His Sermon on the Mount:

"Blessed are you who are begging, cowering, short of breath.  Blessed are you who are stinky, smelly, bankrupt of body, soul, and spirit.  Blessed are you who feel worthless because you're spent, you're humbled by running life's marathon.  Blessed are you who just finish, for you get the prize - ME!"

Kinda gives you a visual of what state Paul was in when he - through the Holy Spirit - the Holy Breath of God - wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7:

"I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the course.  I have kept the faith."

It's nice to know that Jesus will greet you in His arms one day when you cross that finish line after the marathon of life.  It's nice to know that His shepherd's "staff" is waiting for you and me - to give you Heavenly comfort and treatment.  It's nice to know that He will wash our sweaty, smelly, "holy" running shoes at the end of the race, and welcome us home - with the angels applauding!

What do you think?  How do you read?

Sharing The Long Haul this week with:
Faith Filled Fridays at Beholding Glory

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Super Bowl Sunday for Christians

Welcome to a Special Edition of The Sheep's Pen!

As I was preparing to pen my regular post, something was tugging at me.  Something just wasn't right.  The topic I was preparing just wasn't clicking.  I was drawing blanks and feeling numb to the whole writing process.  As Sunday was drawing closer, I kept feeling that I should target my comments on what we know as Resurrection Sunday - or, if you'll excuse a sports metaphor - the Super Bowl Sunday for Christians!

The research for my regular post was taking me down many "rabbit trails" - no pun intended.

Finally, a still small voice spoke to my spirit and said, "Just give them the Word.  Don't explain it.  Don't comment.  Just give them Luke 24.  No bells.  No whistles.  Just leave the rest to Me."

So, here goes.  Sit back.  Go back . . . 2000 years.  Come with me to the tomb . . . 

But, on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.  And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  

While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and, as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them:


And, they remembered His Words, and returned from the tomb, and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.  

Now, they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles.  But, these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them .  But, Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only, and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.

The Road to Emmaus

And, behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem.  And, they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place.  While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them.  But, their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.  

And, He said to them, "What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?"

And, they stood still, looking sad.  One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, "Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?"

And, He said to them, "What things?"

And, they said to Him, "The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him.  But, we were hoping that it was He Who was going to redeem Israel.  

"Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.  But, also some women among us amazed us.  When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was ALIVE!  

"Some of of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see."


Then, beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.  And they approached the village where they were going and He acted as though He was going farther.  But, they urged Him saying, "Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over."  

So, He went in to stay with them.  When He had reclined at the table with them, He took bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them.  Then, their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.  

They said to one another, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" 

And, they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, "The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon."  They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.

While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace, be to you."

But, they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit.  And, He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have."

And, when He had said this, He showed them His hands and feet.  While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?"

They gave Him a piece of broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them.  Now, He said to them, "These are my Words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."  

Then, He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And, behold I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."

And, He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.  While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into Heaven.   And, they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great Joy, and were continually in the Temple praising God.

So, there you have it.
2000 years ago Jesus Christ made the ultimate TOUCH-DOWN 
crossing Earth's goal line to secure the WIN  
Please enjoy this Super Bowl Sunday - this Resurrection Sunday
with no commercials. 
Perhaps, today, instead of beer and pizza, you might  
Celebrate with Bread and Wine.

How do you read it?  What do you think?

 Sharing Super Bowl Sunday for Christians this week with:
Faith Filled Fridays at Beholding Glory
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