Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Am My Brother

My kids got seasons 1-3 of the Muppet T.V. show for my wife and I for Christmas.  I used to love watching it when it was on. 

In the first season, there is a curious little song entitled, I Am My Own Grandpa.  When my son, wife and I watched it the first time, we laughed til we cried.  Such a funny song.

When at the cancer center yesterday, I got news that now my bone marrow, which produces blood for a person, is now totally my brother's (the donor's) from the stem cell transplant, and that it is totally engrafted--very good news.  My bone marrow was unhealthy--hence the leukemia I had.    But I got to thinking, "Does that mean I am now my brother?"  Silly.

As I reflected on it, some Scripture and songs came to me about my relationship with Christ.  Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me."  John said in chapter 15, "Abide in Me, and I in you."  An old hymn says, "Is the love of Christ flowing through you" (as blood flows through our veins)?  I think of other Scripture that says I am to die to self, and live in the Lord.  And I am aware of others that talk of the fact that the Holy Spirit is to live out the life of Jesus through my life.  All good words, but challenging for followers of Jesus.  He is to be "our life."  Life is to be all about Him, as if His blood ran through our veins; as if His bone marrow created our "life blood."

The Hebrews felt that the life of the person was in the blood, hence they would not allow any animal to be eaten that had not been drained of its blood.  Blood, just as life, were given by God Himself, the Holy One of Israel--the Creator God who "breathed into the nostrils the breath of life," and who thought up this entire body--an amazing body of systems that normally work well together.

Back in the 70's or 80, there was a man, Mark Gersmehl, who wrote a song which said, "You're the only Jesus that some will ever see."  This is a good reminder that I do not, as a believer in Christ, just represent me as I live in this world.  I show Jesus to others--for good or for bad.  Paul says we are to "reflect" Christ and be a "fragrance" of Christ to others.

When people look at my life, and yours, do they see the life of Jesus, the love of Jesus, the way of Jesus exemplified, or does our life point them to other ways of living, contrary to the purposes and pleasure of God--His intents?

Is 100% of Jesus bone marrow engrafted in you?  If not, there is still growth to attain and things to do as we become His fragrance--Jesus to others.  Keep on the journey.

Monday, January 20, 2014


From Genesis, one learns that God was the Creator of Adam and Eve, and from them, we all came.  So God is the Creator of us all.  In Galatians 3:28 it says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus"  (NIV)

From these I see:
     1. Everyone is created by God.

     2. God makes no distinctions between people on earth, as to His love and wanting a relationship     with them.

From this I say, as creations of God and recreated in the image of God through Christ, believers are to not be prejudiced.

Last night, the eve of Martin Luther King's birthday, my wife and I viewed the movie, "The Help."  It is a story of a sad time in the history of the U.S.--a time of prejudice because of the color of a person's skin.  And a young lady, raised by a maid, wanted to tell the story of "the help"--the ladies who were maids, raising their children, cooking their meals, cleaning their houses, and in some cases with little respect or compassion.  And out of fear of reprisal by losing their jobs or even beating, the  ladies were at first unwilling to tell their stories of mistreatment and prejudice.  But as time went on, they felt the story had to be told.  I would suggest that if you have not seen it, you check it out and view it.  It is sad; it is funny; it is touching.

Near the end of the movie, one especially touching and reflecting line, to a lady who was involved in doing missions through her church, and because of her meanness and prejudice towards the maids, was this.  The maid said, "You are a godless woman."  It seemed to provide a time of pain and yet thought for the woman toward whom it was directed.

As I reflected, I realized that when I am prejudiced, I am a "godless man."  Christians are to take on the character of God and Christ.  Regardless of what the prejudice is about, and the mistreatment of others because of it, it is wrong according to the Creator and the One who loves everyone.

In 1 John, I read that he who loves is becoming like God.  And I read that the one who loves God is to love his fellow humans also.  And John says, "If you do not love others, you do not know God nor love God."  (1 John 4)  Hence--godless.

So today, I have to reflect who I am prejudiced toward.  Who do I mistreat?  And I remember, that is godless--denying my relationship with God through Christ.

With the help of the Holy Spirit (some of us are even prejudiced toward Him), I want to do better in reflecting Christ to others, not only in attitudes but also in deeds as well.  What about you?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Many of us have trouble relating to the apostle Paul--he was a bit intense and an overachiever.  But we can relate to Peter, who fluctuated in his faith throughout his early life with Jesus.  In Matthew 16:13-24, we find a couple of episodes illustrating this in Peter's life.

Jesus asks His disciples who people say He is.  They give standard responses of the time--John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or another prophet.  Responses that people still give today when they try to describe Jesus.

Then Jesus asks the important question, "But who do YOU say that I am?"  And that is still a or the important question people in our time must answer.  Because it doesn't matter who others "think" Jesus is, nor who others "believe" Jesus is, if I have not come to terms with the answer for myself.

Peter says, "You are the Christ (Messiah, Anointed One), the Son of the living God."  So he said, "You are the One sent from God but You are also Deity Yourself.

Jesus commends Peter, but tells him that this is not something people just come to; it must be revealed to them by God Himself.  It is a spiritual truth, but given by God not human beings.

Then from verse 21, when Jesus talks about the fact he would die and resurrect, that does not compute with the disciples nor their contemporaries.  They did not see the Messiah as a Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53) but as a conquering hero (Isaiah 9, 11), much like, but even better than King David.

So Peter steps up to the plate again and privately says to Jesus, "Never Lord!  This shall never happen to you."  Peter not only contradicts Jesus statement, he also rebukes the Messiah, the Son of the living God by saying this.

When any of us contradicts or rebukes God and His Son, we are wrong.  Because what God says is always truth.  Remember Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life."  Go against the truth of God at your own peril, but you are in the wrong--sinning when you do so.

Jesus says that Peter is Satan (or a representative of Satan) and stumbling block to Jesus in this.  He also tells him that THIS statement of Peter's is NOT from God, like his earlier confession was.  He was looking at things from an earthly, limited viewpoint; not from God's perspective and Word.  Messiahs don't get themselves killed--they win battles as they free people.

And I think v. 24 is an important part of this passage also.  "If anyone would come aftyer me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."  Deny self--selfishness and thoughts of your way and earthly ways of thinking; Take up his cross--that was a humiliating instrument way of death and execution--carry it to your death so you can truly follow Jesus and live for Him and with a genuine knowledge of God and God's plan through Jesus.

Peter--from a Rock to Satan--from having something revealed to Him by God Himself to believing something from Satan and worldly ways of thinking.  (They had their prophecy wrong--do you?)  It can all happen so quickly and easily--we are still human and influenced by people more than God.  It is a maturing process.

So who is Jesus to YOU? 
Will you listen to Him or the teachings and philosophies of this earthly world?  In many ways, the lives of believers today are no different from those who do not follow Jesus.  Will you be sucked in to thinking like everyone else or be different and listen to God?

"Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus."  That's the way to prevent being fooled and being found on God's side rather than Satan's side.

Friday, January 3, 2014


People are so wishy-washy.   We are fickle.  We have good intentions, but so often when the time comes, we forget, we fail, we hesitate from what we said.  And the apostle Peter was no different in that respect from us.

Peter had made some astounding statements such as, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God," and was commended by Jesus.  Peter also said, "I will never deny you even if all turn away."  Then Peter was called Satan or fitting the plan of Satan not God in this former episode, and of course denied the Lord three times before the cock crowed.

We see that denial in John 18 today (15-18, 25-27).  As you look back to Jesus' being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (yesterday's blog), one finds a big contrast between Jesus and Peter.  Jesus says, "I AM (he)" in response to the guards seeking Him.  Peter, asked whether he was with Jesus or is His disciple says, "I am not."  One of course, is God (Jesus), and one is a human who wants to follow but as one says, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."  Fear, embarrassment--whatever, it caused Peter to recoil and lie about his position in relation to Jesus.

Notice how the question is posed, negatively, as if it certainly was a bad thing or (today in our environment--a non-intellectual thing) to be a follower of Jesus.  Today, in the scientific culture we live in, if you believe in Jesus you must be some sort of weird person.  Because that is just a choice--no fact involved (faith vs. fact debate).  "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" (Jn 18:17, 25)  It's kind of like saying, "I thought you were smarter than that--believing in an old, outmoded story, something without basis in fact."

Notice, "disciple"--This is a learner, a committed follower, one seeking to learn and pattern his/her life after another.  Peter denied that he was this, and so often do we.  It may be our words that say, "I am not a disciple, or it could be we deny we are followers when indeed we are--we're just too embarrassed to own up to it.  But there are other ways of denying we are His disciple too--like saying we believe one way, and living our life quite the opposite.  The way of Jesus was a way of truth, righteousness, morality and justice.  When we claim to be His disciple, but then live in contradiction to His teachings, that is denying we are His disciples.  We all sin, but we also often swallow "the worldly way" of doing life more than we do Christ's way of living life.

Peter was a person, like us.  Peter didn't have it all together yet, just like us.  But Peter was a disciple in that he learned from his mistakes, and after the coming of the Holy Spirit and Pentecost (Acts 2) was a radically different follower of Jesus.  That says to me, "There's hope--don't give up the quest to become a fully committed disciple."  And it also say, "The power is in God and Jesus, to live the committed Christian life.  It does not reside in any human.  We need that godly power along with our knowledge of what Jesus expects, to live life to please Him."

Do you see yourself in Peter today?  "You're not one of his disciples, are you?"  What areas of your life need to be turned over to the Lord or recommitted to the Lord again?"

Thursday, January 2, 2014


My mother used to use the expression, "open mouth-insert foot," at times.  It meant that so often it is easy to open one's mouth and say too much or what you meant doesn't come out like you meant it to.  Happens to all of us at times.

In another episode in the life of Apostle Peter, from John 18:1-11 (and the other gospels), we find this of Peter again with an action.

Jesus is being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.  There are Romans soldier (maybe as many as 600, some feel), plus Temple guards and Judas there.  Jesus was with his disciples in this overnight scene. 

In the gospel of John, John portrays Jesus as always in charge, not a victim.  So Jesus asks the guards, "Who are you seeking?"  They say, "Jesus of Nazareth."  And Jesus says, "I am he." (ESV)  At this point, the army recoils and fell to the ground.  Was Jesus referring to Himself with the phrase, "I AM" as in many other places in John, and referring back to the divine name in Exodus 3:14?  Probably so.  And according to the text, "knees bow" at the sound of the name.

Jesus then attempts to get his disciples freed as he goes with the guards.

And here is where Peter "opens mouth, inserts foot"--actually opens sword and cuts off ear.  And once again, as Peter had done several times before in the gospel accounts, Peter had gotten off track with God's will (and of course, would again, in the denial occurring past this in the text). 

Peter did things impetuously--on the spur of the moment--and they got him in trouble so often.  What do we learn from Peter's response?

  • Hasty rather than thoughtful or prayerful decisions often lead to spiritual mistakes.
  • When one does not consult the Lord, one often goes directly against the will of God, even with good intentions.  "God's work needs to be done God's way."
  • When one acts on his own, he often portrays the cause of Christ or the purpose of Christ in a wrong light.  Jesus came not to be a political leader or revolutionary, but to "save His people from their sins."  Jesus had come to accept God's plan and purpose and way of carrying out that purpose.
Jesus had told Peter earlier, when Peter denied that Jesus would be crucified and resurrected, "Get behind me Satan.  For you have in mind the things of men, not the things of God."  And that is so easy to do, when we do it OUR way.

Fortunately for the early church, after Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter was radically different.  We need the Holy Spirit and to keep in touch with the Holy Spirit, so we can be radically different also. 

Growth in faith is important for the individual, for God's portrayal by us to the world, and for God's purposes achieved fully through us.

I am glad God didn't give up on Peter.  I am even more glad God never gave up on me!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Leukemia and chemo is a very humbling experience.  There are times when one cannot get out of bed or do any personal self-care, due to the weakness.  And that's hard for most any American to take.

John 13:6-8

Context--Jesus with his disciples in the upper room, preparing them for his death, resurrection, ascension and them living life without him there.  Jesus is doing a task that only the lowliest slave of a house would do--washing people's dirty feet.

When Jesus gets to Peter, he protests--"Lord you will never wash my feet."  You are rabbi and leader, Lord.  You shouldn't be doing this lowly task.  (Notice Peter didn't offer in the text to get up and take Jesus' place.)  Jesus explained to Peter that Peter did not yet understand what Jesus was doing (or about to do in going to crucifixion for Peter and all others.  Jesus would lower Himself again, through the Cross, and take the sin of the world.

A few days after the stem cell transplant, I was sitting up in chair and able to do my own bath, but could still not get to my feet due to swelling in my legs.  The nurse tech washed them for me, and it dawned on me, and I said it, John 13.  I told her about how Jesus had washed the feet of his disciples just as she was washing my feet.  The worst day with the feet was the day they had sweated very badly, and smelled very badly, and I told her to just get two tubs of water to let me put them in and soak because they were terrible to me.  But she did so without complaining or making me feel like I was less than a person.

It was humbling for me when my wife did this, but even more humbling when a nurse tech, one I didn't know well at all, was doing this and other self-care for me. 

What did Peter learn (and I learn) that could help us live our lives with the Lord better?

  • None of us (especially Christians) should be too good to humble ourselves, lower ourselves to meet a practical need another has.  We all are equal in the sight of God.
  • None of us should be too good to humble ourselves, and let another serve us, when it is our time to have a need, and someone comes to help and serve.  Ecclesiastes 3 says, "There is a time for every purpose under heaven"--a time to be well and a time to be sick.  Do not rob someone of their opportunity to minister and serve.
  • What is important is not "position" in life; what is important is doing what God asks us to do.
  • Meeting practical needs is showing Jesus' love and humility.  Follow His example.  (Remember, Jesus original call to Peter was "Follow Me.")
  • Spiritual eyes must be open for practical needs to be seen, and spiritual hearts must be open to move from seeing to doing.  But that's what faith is--seeing, believing, and then doing--"follow up or follow Me."
What do you learn from this important episode in Peter's life?

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Walking on water is impossible--but in Matthew 14:22-36, we find two different people walking on the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus had a busy day of ministry, so he sends the disciples in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus goes to a mountain to pray to His Father and spends evening and much of the night.  The disciples are fighting to get the boat across because a storm comes up. 

Early in the morning, Jesus joins them by walking on the Sea.  The disciples see Him, and are afraid he is a ghost.  I mean, who can walk on water?

Jesus tells them not to be afraid, that it is He (literally "I am.")

When Peter realizes it is Jesus, he asks Jesus to identify Himself by asking Peter to come to Him, walking on the water.  Jesus tells Peter to come, and Peter does.

Successfully walking toward Jesus, Peter then sees the storm and effects of the wind, and begins to sink.  Of course, he asks Jesus to save him.  Jesus lifts him out of the waves and asks Peter, "O you of  little faith, why did you doubt. (ESV)

They get into the boat; the storm ceases, and the disciples worship Jesus and say, "Truly, You are the Son of God."  Good statement since only God can control nature.

Peter--impetuous, fool hardy, maybe full of faith, and yet like us all, he has his doubts too, especially when he thinks about the situation he faces.  Who can walk on water?  Who can do so during a storm?  Certainly I can't; I don't have the power to overcome those forces, yet Peter was doing that due to Jesus' power just a minute before.

What so often happens with us like Peter, is that we take our eyes off Jesus.  We look more at the situation than we do the God who can control anything and do miracles.  So we let the situation become bigger as we make Jesus smaller.  Who is the Lord--the situation you face or Jesus?

Henry Blackaby (Experiencing God) used to say, "Look at the circumstance from God's perspective rather than looking at God through the circumstance."    In other words, what could God achieve through this; how could He grow me through this; what purpose might He have that I might join and obey and follow?

Jesus saved Peter, but He also shows Him that faith is necessary to do what God wants.  We should not doubt His power to do ANYTHING.  The impossible is possible with God and His son, Jesus.

Peter and the disciples learn important lessons from this story.  They learn to trust God (at least for now) for anything--even impossible things.  They learn to focus on Jesus not circumstances.  And they learn a bit more of who Jesus is--they worshiped Him and called Him the Son of God.

What do you face right now that is IMPOSSIBLE?  Will God be there for you in this seemingly impossible situation/task?  Is He powerful enough to overcome or help you get through it?

Keep your focus on Jesus, not the problem or situation; look for His perspective.

And through this all, you will learn that Jesus is the Son of God, and you will learn more of what that means--all good lessons for followers of Jesus who are on a long and winding road.  And the more you learn about the real Jesus, the more you will worship Him.