Friday, April 29, 2011

Time Waits for No One

What do we do with the time we have been given? Everyone gets the same amount each day, so why does it seem that others can accomplish more?

I got into an “efficiency kick” a few days ago. That day was just humming along, filled to the brim with stuff to do, and yet I remained organized and efficient. I had just returned home from the gym and thought “First, I must have my protein shake.”

I stepped into the kitchen, and began to pull out the ingredients with GREAT efficiency. Milk? Check. Ice cream? Check. Protein Powder? Check. I was so pleased with myself that I was being so focused (remember, having ADD doesn’t help in the efficiency department). I dumped the ingredients into our blender and then noticed it wasn’t plugged in. Huh? I plugged it in.

In the following moment, I made two keen observations. (1) I didn’t have the blender’s cap on. And (2), I failed to notice that the blender was already switched on…

The blender EXPLODED into action.

I frantically (and quite inefficiently) yanked the cord out of the socket.

The damage, however, was done.

While I was cleaning up the spillage, I remembered the old axiom that “Haste makes waste”.

There HAS to be some happy medium, I thought, between living in the land of the doldrums (where nothing is ventured nor gained), versus living in a hyperactive and anxiety filled existence (where you get a lot done but burn yourself out).

When we look at the Author and Perfecter of our faith, we quickly notice that Jesus never seemed perplexed or harried. He simply went about His Father’s business.

He was disciplined.

Discipline is neither fun nor easy, but it is essential if we are to grow in our walk with the Lord.

In what ways have we disciplined ourselves to be better stewards of the limited time and resources that God has given us?

In what ways must we improve?


1 Corinthians 9:24-27
You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally.

I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

The Message

John 4:34-38
Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”

Psalm 39:4-7
“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.”

We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.

1 Peter 4:1-11
So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.

Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. But remember that they will have to face God, who will judge everyone, both the living and the dead. That is why the Good News was preached to those who are now dead—so although they were destined to die like all people, they now live forever with God in the Spirit.

The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.


Friday, April 22, 2011

An Easter Story

I just turned 36 years old. This birthday was different than most other years because Tax Day didn’t fall on it. Yes, I was born on the dreaded 15th of April, 1975 (I’m sure my mom was happy I didn’t file for an extension that year). Being born in the middle of April also meant that my birthday often fell during Holy Week which varies from year to year because it is based on the lunar calendar.

April the 15th, 1984, fell on the first day of Holy Week, Palm Sunday. It was on this day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (which was the traditional mode of transportation for Jewish royalty). The people were enthralled by His entrance and shouted praises as He made His way into the city. Oh, how soon those shouts of acclamation would change into chants for His death.

In 1976, my first birthday landed on Maundy Thursday. This day is recognized as the night Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples for last time. On that night, Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment; to love one another. Later that evening, He was betrayed and arrested and brought before the religious authorities. They sentenced Him to die.

My birthday has yet to land on Good Friday (the first time would be in 2022). It’s just as well, because there was nothing to celebrate on that day. Jesus was brought before the Roman Prefect (or administrator), Pontius Pilate, who eventually cowed to the desires of the religious authorities who were prepared to incite a riot. Jesus was beaten, whipped, forced to carry the instrument of His death and crucified. Among His last words were: “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” He died and was buried in a tomb.

The following day is known as Holy Saturday (my birthday fell on this day in 1995 and 2006). Jesus was dead in the tomb. Some of the religious leaders, mindful of Jesus’ predictions that He would rise from the dead on the third day, asked permission from Pilate to seal the tomb and post guards. This day has often been spent in quiet contemplation. Jesus, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace and the Lord of Lords is dead. He’s dead because of my rebellion. He’s dead because of all the times I’ve wandered off the path (past, present and future).

As I would often recite in Spanish Catholic mass; “Por mi culpa. Por mi culpa. Por mi gran culpa.” (For my failure. For my failure. For my great failure.)

It was a very dark day indeed.

Easter morning dawns however. Three times I’ve been blessed to wake up on my birthday AND Easter Sunday (1979, 1990 and 2001). What makes Easter special is not bunnies, pastel colored eggs and/or chocolate. This day is celebrated because on this day life conquered death once and for all.

The resurrection is proof that there IS life on the other side. That we are not destined to shuffle around for a few years before dropping into oblivion. That TRUE life, life as it was meant to be, will find complete fulfillment.

We will see our loving Creator face to face and live with Him. Forever.

If Good Friday is the lowest valley of the Christian calendar, Easter then, is the mountaintop. As the old hymn goes, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, All fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living just because He lives.”

He is risen, He is risen indeed!


Luke 24:1-48
But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.

The Walk to Emmaus
That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

“What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.

“Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”

Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”

Jesus Appears to the Disciples
Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!

“Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.

Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he ate it as they watched.

Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of all these things.


Job 19:25-26
Still, I know that God lives—the One who gives me back my life— and eventually he'll take his stand on earth. And I'll see him—even though I get skinned alive!— see God myself, with my very own eyes. Oh, how I long for that day!

The Message

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Anode Rod

As with many household problems, this one snuck up on us. The water coming out of our faucets was not crystal clear anymore. “The town must be cleaning out the pipes,” I said (and hoped), but much to my chagrin, the problem not only continued, it got worse.

Over the next few days, the water developed a sour odor. This set Kathy (who has a much more refined sense of smell than I) off the edge. “You. Are calling. A plumber.”

After she left for work, however, I didn’t call a plumber. I called the town waterworks in the vain hope that they were indeed cleaning out the pipes.

They weren’t.

It was about this time that I noticed that the cold water came out clear. It was the HOT water that was dirty.

Uh-oh. Water heater = $$$$$$

I did a Google search and discovered the most likely culprit.

The anode rod.

The anode rod is a replaceable component of the water heater which protects the steel walls of the tank from rusting out and causing a flood. In layman’s terms, the anode rod is made out of a metal that is “tastier” to the water (which causes rust) than the steel tank. Instead of the tank rusting out, the rod literally gets eaten alive.

It’s kinda like a lightning rod for rust.

I looked up how to replace it and got to work.

The video shows the amount of leverage that’s needed to uncork one of these. They’re not kidding.

When I finally removed the rod, my diagnosis was confirmed. The rod was crumbling away and the resulting sediment was in our system. I replaced the rod with a new one and set out to clean up the tank. Flushing the tank with fresh water eventually cleaned it out, and Kathy and I once again had crystal clear hot water (without a plumber’s bill).

The anode rod is an elegant solution to a nasty problem. It sacrifices itself to protect the integrity of the tank.

As we approach the week leading up to Good Friday and Easter, we are reminded of Passover.

The Passover sacrifice protected the households marked with its blood.

Jesus, the ultimate Passover lamb, likewise sacrificed Himself so that the judgment for our sins would not fall on us, but stick to Him.


Exodus 12:1-13
While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the LORD gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you. Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household. If a family is too small to eat a whole animal, let them share with another family in the neighborhood. Divide the animal according to the size of each family and how much they can eat. The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects.

“Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. That same night they must roast the meat over a fire and eat it along with bitter salad greens and bread made without yeast. Do not eat any of the meat raw or boiled in water. The whole animal—including the head, legs, and internal organs—must be roasted over a fire. Do not leave any of it until the next morning. Burn whatever is not eaten before morning.

“These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the LORD’s Passover. On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the LORD! But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.

Isaiah 53:2-6
My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.

He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!

But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.

Matthew 26:1-16
When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the Passover celebration,” they agreed, “or the people may riot.”

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head. The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste of money,” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”

But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver. From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Your Name Here

Although some of us would rather forget, we all remember taking Physical Education in school. For kids like me who were not athletically gifted, it was an ordeal that instilled the virtues of endurance and humility (as if we didn’t face enough humiliation as it was). I had flat feet so I consistently ranked among the slowest of my peer group. This designation continued to follow me through college. I was assigned to the “Chinook” squad during ROTC Physical Training “fun runs”. The Chinook is a big, plodding, military transport helicopter with twin rotors. It is slow, as am I.

But let’s get back to the eighties, back to elementary school P.E.

I don’t remember what her name was.

There was this girl, you see. She ran differently than the rest of us. It was almost like a waddle. I’m sure she had a pretty name. But we bestowed another one upon her instead.


Howard the Duck.

How is it that we can be so cruel to each other?

We carried this on for a while until one of our teachers caught wind of it and had a little “talk” with us.

This teacher told us how disgusting this was; that it was like watching a pack of dogs. This teacher then made a threat that I have never heard before nor since.

“If any of you EVER calls her a name other than her own, I will sit you in a chair in the middle of this classroom. I will then begin to insult YOU in front of everybody until you start crying. Next, I will arrange for a parent-teacher conference and when I see your parents, I will curse them out and explain that this is what you have doing to this girl.”

You could hear a pin drop.

The teacher continued, “If anybody goes to the principal concerning what I just said, I will swear that you are lying.”

And with that, her name was restored.

What is in a name?
Who gives us our name? Who establishes our identity?
What does your name mean to you? To others?


Genesis 17:1-8
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.”

At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!

“I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.”

Judges 13:17-18
Then Manoah asked the angel of the LORD, “What is your name? For when all this comes true, we want to honor you.”

“Why do you ask my name?” the angel of the LORD replied. “It is too wonderful for you to understand.”

Matthew 16:13-20
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”

Then he sternly warned the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Revelations 2:17
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Feathering our Nests

Despite the brief snow we got a few days back, spring is definitely in full bloom. It all began a little over a week ago as trees began to wake up from their winter slumbers.

For those who have never witnessed this miracle, let me describe it: Certain types of trees lose their foliage in autumn. After the leaves “fall” off, the branches are laid bare to the elements. This is how they remain throughout winter; the only clue to life being the tiny buds along every branch and limb. When the time and temperature is right, the buds begin the process of opening.

Kinda like a long stretch after a good night’s rest.

Over the next few days, the trees begin to get a fuzzy look as the stark branches begin to “feather out”. Just after this happens, the trees burst into flower and you’re treated to a wonderful spectacle as you witness life returning to what for so long appeared dead.

Another herald of the spring thaw is the robins. The once frozen ground has loosened up which has resulted in many a worm coming up for a breath of fresh air (and consequently going down the throat of a hungry bird).

Robins are the feathered wolves of my backyard.

As I was on my coffee rounds last Tuesday, I saw a robin with a large chunk of plastic grass in its beak.

Nesting material.

The flowers were just beginning to bloom and this bird was already busy “feathering” its nest.

This made me think about how we feather our own nests.

How much is enough?

I mean, at what point could we say “I have all I need.”?

I remember a few years back daydreaming every time I walked down the steps of my apartment complex. I’d be on my way to get the mail and thought how great it would be to find a check for $50,000 along with the bills. That amount would pay off our car, eliminate our student loans, give us a vacation AND make a hefty down payment on a mortgage.

$50,000 was all I needed.

Well, needless to say, that check never arrived.

Despite this “tragic” fact, we managed to keep a roof over our heads, our bellies filled, and our bills paid. Over the span of a few years, we also were able to pay off our car and student loans, and even save up for a down payment on a house.

After getting the house (along with the accompanying mortgage), $50,000 seems like chump change.

How much would “enough” be now?

And yet, ALL our needs continue to be met.

What would be “enough” for you? At what point could you honestly say, “No thanks, I’ve got plenty.”?

How has God met your needs in the past? What about the present? What does this say about your future needs?


Proverbs 30:1-9 (NLTse)
The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh contain this message. I am weary, O God; I am weary and worn out, O God. I am too stupid to be human, and I lack common sense. I have not mastered human wisdom, nor do I know the Holy One.

Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down? Who holds the wind in his fists? Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak? Who has created the whole wide world? What is his name—and his son’s name? Tell me if you know!

Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection. Do not add to his words, or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar. O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie.

Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.

Matthew 6:7-13 (The Message)
“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what's best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.