Friday, June 29, 2012

The Model Referee

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called Sons of God!"
Matthew 5:9

Ever get in the middle of a fight?

Of course you have.  Two combatants on either side, and you right in the middle.  Your arms are outstretched with each hand carefully placed on each combatants chest in hopes of keeping them apart.  You keep them apart because you care for both of them.

Also, you know that one would probably kill the other!

The two fighters are angry with each other and even though they are separated apart they start swinging.  Trouble is - because of their distance the only thing their fists connect with - is the one in the middle!  The one in the middle receives the punishment that each side wants to inflict on each other.

Now, a fistfight can last from five to ten minutes - perhaps, with a couple of die-hards - fifteen to twenty minutes.  It all depends on the energy released by the two opposing parties.  Whatever the duration, it seems like an eternity to the one in the middle, using all of his energy to keep them apart.

What usually happens next is truly a phenomenon.  Both parties tire after expelling all that energy, look at each other, huffing and puffing, and say to each other, "Had enough?"

Usually, both of them agree - "Yeah!" - shaking their heads with a nod.  Then, shaking hands, they'll mutter something like, "Let's go get a drink," and off they go like new found bosom buddies.

But, what of the one in the middle?  He is the one battered, bruised, and bloodied.  He's the one that looks like the cat just dragged him in.  No matter - his mission is complete.  It has been accomplished.  Peace is restored and the two combatants have been reconciled.

God and man were at each other.  They needed reconciliation.  Jesus stepped right in the middle of our fight with God.  We swing wildly at God with our disobedience, our sin.  God was poised to deliver the one lethal blow.  Jesus got right in the middle of us with his outstretched arms and kept us and God apart, absorbing the blows from both sides for what must have seemed like an eternity on that Friday.  For six hours the fight lasted - on the cross - with Jesus never dropping his arms.  Jesus is the One who got battered, bruised, and bloodied.

What did we get?

Reconciliation and an invitation to supper in Heaven, walking away eternally reconciled to God.

"Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.  Namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed us to the Word of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as through God were making an appeal through us, we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
2 Corinthians 5:18-21

As a Christian, do you ever wonder why you seem to be in the middle of every skirmish?  At work?  At home?  At church?

If Christ is in you, you can't help being in the middle.  You have been placed there - by Him!  Jesus is called the Son of God, by being in the middle for us.  We are called sons of God, by being in the middle for Him!

Yean, you get battered, bruised, and bloodied - but you get called by an even better name!

How do you read?  What do you think?

Sharing The Model Referee this week with:
Faith Filled Fridays at Beholding Glory

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wooden Floors

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
Matthew 5:8

"Create in me a clean heart, O God;
And renew a steadfast (right) spirit within me."
Psalm 51:10

My wife and I have been blessed with a beautiful rancher house built in the 1960's.  Frankly, it is the best house that I have ever lived in.  Its previous owner had taken good care of the house - with the exception of the carpets.

You see, they had dogs. You could tell that the dogs had a few accidents on the carpets.  Each room in the house, except for the kitchen and bathroom, had wall to wall carpeting.  So, each room had a little evidence of a beloved pet.

At the time, we also had pets:  Libby, our golden retriever, and Blaze our domestic longhair cat.

Actually, both had long hair, so something needed to be done in relation to these carpets - not only for the stains, not only because the carpets were worn, but also for the fact that these carpets were going to get worse - with likely more stains and way too much hair.

We decided to pull up the carpets - all of them - from each room.  We knew there was a wood floor with promise under there - if we could just get to it.

If you've never done it - pulling up carpets is hard work!  Attention to detail is a must, as well as having a strong back, durable knees, and tireless arms.  Here's the process that we went through:

FIRST, we had to get everything off the floor - all furniture had to be moved to another room because we were doing one room at a time.

SECOND, we had to tear up the carpet, pulling up and out.  This was a real "hands on" affair!

THIRD, we had to use our hammer's claw and flat head screw drivers to pull out all the staples and tack nails and the strips of board that they were nailed to and staples onto the floor.  The cushioning foam that was underneath the carpets was also pulled up.  What a mess! 

FOURTH, we had to vacuum the floor pick up all the sandy debris from the old carpeting and to make sure that any nails and left over staples we had missed were removed from the site.

FIFTH, all the wood needed a good sanding which we did by hand with scads of sandpaper, then scrubbed and washed the floor - talk about elbow grease - and, let it dry.

SIXTH, came the floor finishing oils and varnish, giving it a shiny sheen with a new wood look and smell.  We let it dry, and then buffed the floor with soft cloths.

FINALLY, the floor was ready for the furniture to be returned to it.  We tried new furniture arrangements for a whole different look.

The process took about a week.  When we were finished, my wife and I took a step back and admired the fruit of our labor.

We both said: 

"Wow!  What a difference!"  We didn't know that such a beautiful floor was underneath that disgusting carpet - it's like we have a totally new house!"

When we become a Christian, our born again lives are just like the newly discovered wooden floors beneath that filthy carpet.  Jesus says, "Blessed are the pure in heart . . ."  What does that mean? 

In the Greek, the word for 'pure' is 'katharos' - which means to be cleansed, to be made pure, innocent.

The word for heart in the Greek is 'kardia' - which means our whole being, our minds, and our spirits.  Putting it all together we get:

 "Blessed are those who get cleansed in both mind and spirit."  

Simple enough?  Okay, the second part of the verse reads:

 "For they shall see God."

The word for 'see' in the Greek is 'horao'.  It means to perceive, to behold, to perceive that a work has been done, and to behold the one who did it.  It's just like taking up the carpet:

FIRST, we see the filth and the need for a change so we move the furniture of our lives by confession and repentence.

SECOND, we invite Jesus in WHo proceeds to tear up the old filthy rags that was our righteousness.  Talk about a pierced-hand-on" affair!

THIRD, Jesus starts to clean up the mess in our lives by pulling us away from what we were stapled to, old strongholds, and old habits.
FOURTH, our souls are vacuumed of all the dirt of our past, present  and future.  Just like when he spit on the dirt to create new eyes for the blind man, we start to see more clearly as the dirt is wiped away from our eyes - falling away like scales off a fish.

FIFTH, we are washed and scrubbed by the Blood of the Lamb when we make Jesus both LORD and SAVIOR - accepting the substitution  of His death on the cross.

SIXTH, the oil of the Holy Spirit seals us, guaranteeing the work will be preserved.

FINALLY, the furniture is placed in you.  Your calling!  Your priorities!  Your new nature!  You've been re-arranged!

Now, take a step back.  Knowing what you were and what you are now, do you see the difference?  Don't you appreciate all of His handiwork done in you?  If you see His work, you see HIM!

Do you see Him alive in you?  If you do, I bet that right now - YOU'RE BLESSED!

As I close, I leave you with one more little thought.  It took God six days to create everything.  It's taking Him the rest of your life to mold you into His image.  Just think, we will be more magnificent than the whole of His Creation.  Bet you didn't know what a beautiful floor you have inside of you!

How do you read?  What do you think?

Sharing my Wooden Floors this week with:
Faith Filled Fridays at Beholding Glory

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Cheeks Full of Spinach

Happy Father's Day!

Little Birdie Blessings graphic credit

I've been MIA in Blogland for the past month - my last post celebrating my mother just before Mother's Day.  Now - here we are weeks later and I'm back . . . thinking of Dad - my Dad!

And, Popeye, of course.

With a side of spinach!  You see, in his later years, my dad actually looked like Popeye - a little fellow with bulky forearms and chubby cheeks and a perpetual wink in his left eye due to the disease that eventually took him.

Okay, stick with me here.  Picking up where I left off Reading the Red in the Beattitudes, I can't help but think of Dad:

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."
Matthew 5:7

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth!'  But, I say to you - do not resist an evil person, but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also."
Matthew 5:38-39

We start life off with a SLAP.  Fine way to be greeted in this world, but that's what the world has to give.  We cry and fill our lungs with fresh oxygen.  "I just squeezed through this narrow tunnel, bringing trama to my mother, as well as myself, and this is the thanks I get!  I get a slap!  Why, you'd better watch out in about another 20 years or so!"

Is this what we think?

No, we forget instantly about the slap when we are cleaned up, and held fast, placed in our mother's arms. "There, that's better!  I'm in familiar territory now!  Boy, am I hungry!"

Perhaps we lash out because we're not in familiar territory when we get older, we know we're not where we belong.  We belong with those who created us, our parents - where it's safe and warm.  Where we'll be cared for and protected.  The slap is in the distant past now as we get our first nourishment without the umbilical cord.  We are clean, warm, and fed.  All is forgotten.  All is forgiven.  We hear a comforting and confirming voice on the outside.  A voice that sounds different, yet strangely familiar. The voice Mother.  Of Father - so strong and protective.

As we grow, SLAPS HAPPEN.  We need to hear the comforting and confirming voices of mother and father on the outside - our protectors, those who love us.  But, more than that - we need to hear the comforting and confirming voice of God our Father - our Protector - on the inside. 

It is in our nature to "lash out" when slapped - giving more heed to the bullying voices in the world outside while drowning out the sweet whisperings of the Spirit inside - He who is the Believer's true Parent - our Heavenly Father voice.  Funny how we forget about the slaps when our deepest needs are met - like, Jesus forgiving me of all my sin.  With this forgiveness, I'm washed, cleaned up, fed, and placed in the Father's protective arms.

I'm safe and sound.  I hear His voice through His Word:

"Father , forgive them, for they know not what they do!"

I hear this on the inside of my heart which is good since I know I'm going to need its protective shield on the outside.  More "slaps" are coming!

From my boss when he doesn't recognize my work and I get passed over for a raise.  SLAP!

The motorist who cuts me off on the road and then shouts at me as though I were at fault.  SLAP!

My kids.  SLAP!

The Government.  SLAP!

Even my brothers and sisters in Christ - sad to say.  SLAP!

The list goes on:  Relatives, in-laws, co-workers, bullies, friends who disappoint, young people in want of manners, the clerk at the register in the store, insulting gas station attendants . . . even my spouse.  The Lord has used all in my life as "holy sandpaper".  These SLAPS, were I to put a monetary price on the value of them against me would fall . . . I would say . . . in the range of about . . . $10.

Yep - you read that right.  TEN DOLLARS.

That's all they would owe me - perhaps a dollar or two less, even.  A mere pittance - compared to the sum of sin I've racked up since my birth and my first . . . SLAP.  What I owe to Jesus would be, in today's monetary value . . . about . . . somewhere in the ozone of trillions of dollars - ba-zillions of dollars.

Impossible to reimburse apart from a "sugar daddy".  Ah!  My Heavenly Father comes to the financial bailout through the immeasurable gift of Jesus Christ, writing PAID IN FULL on my life voucher of sin debt when He took and forgave me of such a debt on the cross.

I hear the familiar voice again as I meditate on what He did for me.  It was to ME He was referring when He said:

"Father, forgive Ed, for he knows not what he does!"

This is were Popeye comes in!  Fanfare, please!

You see, when I'm SLAPPED - but, hear His voice - I suddenly grow POPEYE CHEEKS!  You know Popeye - Popeye the Sailorman?  The one with the big cheeks.  You only see one eye because his cheeks are so big.  You also know that he gets stronger when he eats his spinach - getting it down deep on the inside.  It seemed that for every SLAP at the hands of Bluto - Popeye would reach for his spinach - and be "strong to the finish"!  Invincible!

We're strong and invincible when we get that Holy Spirit brand spinach deep down on the inside - growing Popeye Cheeks and big forearms in our soul and spirit making us more like Jesus and able to turn our cheek at any old SLAP with the power to "forgive our debtors".

In Matthew 18:21, Peter needed a good dose of Popeye Cheeks.  He asks:

"Lord, how often shall my brother sin (slap) against me and I forgive him?  Up to seven times?"

Peter was really asking like the rest of us, "What happens when I run out of cheeks?"

But, listen to the comforting and confirming voice of Jesus as he responds:

"I do not not to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven!"

Okay - third grade multiplication math class tell us - THAT'S 490 CHEEKS!  We don't have that many!  It's impossible!  It can't be done!

Or, can it?

Why, you'd have to be some sort of NEW CREATION to have 490 cheeks!  But, let's not throw the towel in on this mathematical Word problem quite yet.  Let's allow the Lord to clean us up, hold us fast, and feed us some HOLY SPINACH - while He tells us a story in that comforting and confirming Voice of His:

 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents (15 years worth of wages!) was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.  So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.  But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii (100 days wages); and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother (or sister)  from your heart.”

Matthew 18:23-35  NASB

Blessed are those, who are living forgiven, knowing the mercy that Jesus showed to us when we SLAPPED Him, should move us to show mercy to those who SLAP us, remembering theses Words, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"

The next time this world puts a good one on you, remember:  A SLAP is better than torture - especially when fortified with POPEYE CHEEKS.  A slap is for a moment.  Torture is for eternity.

I come home from work.  My wife is cooking something.  She tells me she's been unjustly slandered, mocked, and misused at her job.  I ask her, "What for supper?''  She replies, "Spinach."

How do you read?  What do you think? 

Sharing Cheeks Full of Spinach this week with:
Faith Filled Fridays at Beholding Glory
Graceful's Hear It On Sunday - Use It On Monday 

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