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Israel Study Tour 2017 – Courage in the Promised Land

by on Jun.04, 2017, under Common Man Commentary, Gene, Israel

A few years back, I was part of a team of guys who went to Egypt to travel the way of the Exodus. It was an extraordinary trip.  We saw Cairo, cruised the Nile river, visited the museum..hung out at the Pyramids.. then we followed the path the Israelites took as they exited Egypt… we however.. had a van, complete with an armed guard. We camped at the base of Mount Sinai and then we climbed it. There are several older blog posts that speak to that trip.

That trip ended at Mount Nebo where Moses was stopped by God from entering the promised land. As I stood there.. looking at the signs with the posted mileage to a variety of Israeli cities I had a definite sense that my trip was not complete. I needed to go to Israel.  After a couple of failed attempts I presumed the trip just wasn’t going to happen. So I went to Manchu Pichu. That was 2015. In April of this year I got an email from Walk The Text saying there was a cancellation and they asked me if I wanted to go. It seemed to be perfect timing.

This blog is about that trip. In May I took part in a study tour of Israel called: Walk The Text, lead by Brad Gray. It was a wonderful trip. Great people and a great teaching.  With respect for the tour I wont be doing to many “spoiler alerts” to deminish any ones future trips.  I wont be following any particular order.

On the first day.. stop number three, we found ourselves on a hillside overlooking The Valley of Elah, the location of the famous battle between David and Goliath. The picture is from the Phillistine side of the battle called ” SoKor”. I found setting on that side a little disconcerting. As the teacher (who is brilliant) told the story with many details I had never known before, the story came to life in a way I never imagined.  One fact that had been left out of the story that I have heard many times was the path the Philistines were taking on their destructive journey to Jerusalem. David’s home town, Bethlehem was directly in the way. At that time it was nothing more than a village and easily destroyed leaving everyone either killed or enslaved.  When David saw the Philistine encampment, it was clear to him that failure to defeat them would mean doom for his family and everyone he knew.

Everyone knows the story so repeating it would be silly, but there is one part of it that I have never heard discussed when I was in attendance.

The story portrays David in this larger than life and reality perspective that I think is over glamorized and romanticized. I think David has a strong faith in God to deliver both him and the nation of Israel but I don’t think he was completely without fear of the super human monster called Goliath and the Philistine army that were spread out on the hill in front of them. That just goes against every experience I have had as a human being and the experiences recorded by everyone one else in the Bible, even Jesus on the night he was betrayed before he was crucified.

David was afraid, but he did not let the fear alter his response to what he saw needed to be done. There was to much at stake. The story does indicate that David had experienced God’s intervention into crisis situations in his past which would have indeed increased his confidence in God.. but giants and armies are giants and armies. To pretend this was no big deal diminishes the very real danger that was present before everyone there. I think it’s important to allow David to be human. A human who knew God, but a human none the less.

I was reminded today when a good friend became vulnerable and open about some anxiety he had been experiencing. I think there are few human charactoristics more powerful than that kind of disclosure. The openness often clears the path for all kinds of inner healing to take place and gives the rest of us a boost of encouragement to help us face our own fears.. I have many..

As I prayerfully pondered what he shared, this is what I wrote :

“There is a type of courage that comes directly from God. Its not to be confused with bravado, a pretense of immunity to fear that we see in our culture. The courage that comes from God is the unique ability to “do it afraid”. This kind of courage is not the absence of fear. It says: what must be done, must be done regardless of how I feel at this moment. It comes from a knowing we are not alone. It pushes back the fear for the good of those around us. The core of this kind of courage is love. It denies the self the false luxury of paralyzation. This power to do it afraid comes from God alone and is modeled in the words of Jesus: “May this cup of suffering pass from me.. but not my will, but your will be done!” Spoken in prayer to God in the garden of Gethsemane.”
— for those of us who know what its like to feel the fear of uncertainty and the frailty of life this side of heaven.

 

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Was Jesus a leader ? — Part 1

by on Nov.21, 2013, under Common Man Commentary, Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

gene rowing boat

Leadership Training : Boat Rowing, Ludington MI, 1967. Thanks Grandpa.

I’ve heard it said that a sign of leadership is “you have followers” or something close to that. So in that regard,  Jesus is a leader but so is Miley Cryus and the late Osama Bin laden. So I guess there are a lot of leaders, maybe everyone is a leader in some way. Even children lead each other.

I have a lot of leadership books on my book shelves. I have attended many conferences that were in large part leadership oriented. There is a lot of good practical direction in most of them.  I have a goodly number of “catchy quotes” highlighted in the training materials associated with the books I purchased setting right beside each other on those shelves.

About 33 years ago or so I started a little business that with God’s blessing has kept our family fed. Somewhere in the middle of that I enjoyed a brief time of “successfulness”. People wanted to hear what I had to say. I built buildings.. hired people, fired people, flew around on jet airplanes …etc. It went straight to my head. In hindsight I’m not surprised. I was following the model of leadership presented to me my entire life. Which brings me to beginning point and reason for this little blog.

We are all leaders… we are all followers… so the real questions are ” who are you leading ?”   and  “who are you following ? ” and why…?

More to follow very soon..

 

 

 

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Clean House – Common Man Commentary

by on Nov.10, 2013, under Common Man Commentary, Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

broom

 

“Clean House ” 1 Peter 2:1-3

When I was a child, my mother had a practice on Saturday mornings of opening up the house.. doors and windows and “air it out “.  This was a terrible way to wake up in January.  She was a cleaner. I awoke early to the sound of a vacuum cleaner banging into my bedroom door.  She would open my door and the flood of cold air would fill my room. I would retreat and hide under the covers.

So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God. (1 Peter 2:1-3 MSG)

At first glance, this looks a lot like a self help, motivational proclamation. I have shelves full of self help books I’ve collected over the years. Most of them do little more than help me put better language to describing my weakness’s.

This is different.

When I read this passage in “The Message bible ”  I paused and asked God ” so what does this really mean ?”  I believe He unpacked this for me a bit.

“So”    Here is what proceeded the “So “: Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life. Your old birth came from mortal sperm; your new birth comes from God’s living Word. Just think: a life conceived by God himself! That’s why the prophet said, The old life is a grass life, its beauty as short-lived as wildflowers; Grass dries up, flowers droop, God’s Word goes on and on forever. This is the Word that conceived the new life in you. (1 Peter 1:22-25 MSG)

Peter is talking to new Christ followers.  In relative terms.. I think thats all of us.

” So clean house ! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. ”

Malice – The desire or intention to do evil or ill will..

Pretense – An attempt to make something that is not the case appear true..

Envy – A resentful longing aroused by someones else’s property or qualities…

Hurtful talk – Causing distress to someones feelings and reputation with words…

My mental image of the clean house starts with opening the curtains, windows and doors allowing both light and air into the room… Now you can see what you are dealing with.. A much clearer picture of the “task at hand”. Move the furniture around and an even more detailed picture comes into view.   This is where things start to get ugly.  I think Peter is assisting his readers  by providing them ( and us ) with “the list “of what they are likely to find under the rug that hasn’t been moved in some time.

I remember a line from a Dan Fogelberg song in the 70’s: “When faced with the past, even the strongest man cries”.

“The list” is not how we want to see in ourselves… in the glaring sunlight we are exposed.. we want to do the exact same thing Adam and Eve did… run and hide!

Peter wisely doesn’t belabor the point. He quickly reminds them of a very important truth.. lest they lose heart in condemnation. And to coax them out from hiding.

“You’ve had a taste of God ! ”

Could there be a more reassuring word ?  When you have been forced to see yourself.. naked and vulnerable internally.. Peter is introducing the solution to their dilemma in the same breath.

Yes, your house is filthy.. but their is someone who will help you clean it. And not just a surface ” sponge bath ” but a complete renovation !  Peter is acknowledging that his readers have just begun. They’ve had  ” A taste “..  Just a sip..

Now Peter introduces the 12 step plan with guaranteed results for 6 payments of $29.95. Just kidding 🙂 Kinda.. This is often what people get told / sold .. it’s not true. ( another topic for another day )

What Peter tells them is the core of discipleship and relationship with God !!!

“Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.”

I am hard-pressed to find more intimate imagery in the bible. We are like infants nursing at our mothers breast. Infants are completely dependent and helpless. I think women get this image quicker than men do. Most men I know hate to appear weak in any way, much less to be as as vulnerable as an infant. They also find it difficult to receive God in such a clearly feminine depiction even though the bible clearly teaches that He created  ” man and woman ” in His image.  Male and female.

The life giving instruction continues… “drink deep “. This is surely said to contrast his earlier comment ” you’ve had a taste “. Peter is telling them.. there is more .. much more !

“Drink Deep of God’s pure kindness”.   This should bring pause to all of us…   This is the core.  Peter knew his readers lives were a mess just like he knows our lives are a mess in some way or another.  He also knows their is only one solution and it’s a person. God is a person. He proved it when He showed up in person form as Jesus. Babies nurse from their mother. We are meant to be nurtured in relationship.. which means continual communication with our Heavenly Father. In this context.. it’s one on one.. “as a baby at the breast “.. receiving from Him who is “pure kindness “. Peter wanted his readers to know something about this God he is calling them to be intimate with. He is safe and so much more !  His readers had grown up under oppressive religion ( we have our own version ) and it was important that they begin to have that false image of the angry God, eager for judgment dispelled.

And then, the promise:  “Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.”

Peter abandons the metaphor..  He tells his readers what they are longing to hear.. you will finally be healed of the diseases displayed in ”  the list  “. The ones that plague us all. The disease no program or course can ever conquer.  Only He who created us knows us well enough to recreate us. He recreates us at His breast.. and nowhere else.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

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Children of the King – Common Man Commentary – Matthew 17:24-27

by on Jan.05, 2013, under Common Man Commentary, Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

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“A Thought”  … on Matthew 17:24-27. This is the story of the Temple Tax where Jesus sends Peter off to fish for their taxes.  I most often think of this story and apply it to God’s incredible provision for us. He can make what ever we need appear when exactly we need it. This is certainly true but not the only message.

The story has two tax gathering men asking Peter if Jesus pays taxes.. they were there to collect the annual Temple Tax..  Peter says yes he does.. Inside the house, Jesus pulls Peter aside.. my guess is Peter is getting used to being “pulled aside”. Jesus asks Peter…who pays the kings taxes.. his subjects or his children ? Peter answers.. “his subjects”. Ding Ding Ding..  Peter gets it right. So Jesus establishes the point again.. “Then the children get off free.. right ?” But to be nice.. and cooperative..  we will pay the tax..

Now Jesus sends him fishing… for a coin.   That should either make you laugh or scratch your head. That last thought Jesus plants in Peter’s mind is.. “the children get off free “.. now, fast forward.. he is setting by the lake.. fishing… thinking..  my guess is pondering..  Peter was completely aware of his own culture and religion. The Jewish law was what he had been taught from childhood. A strong dose of religion. What Jesus was introducing to him was revolutionary. Peter knew exactly how to be a “subject  of the King”.. that was well known. Obey the laws ! or maybe better put.. pay the tax !.. What was new to him was the idea of being “A Child of the King”.

This may be the first time Peter has been faced with this truth. Jesus is forcing the hand.  Forcing Peter to recognize his position  as a child of God. This is a very powerful realization. The law makes subjects out of all of us. Love makes children… by birth or by adoption. Jesus is making this distinction.  It’s important.

Imagine Peter.. pondering this new thought… fishing by the lake.

As a child and young man I spent a lot of time fishing. I was born into a family of fishermen. I have sat in boats and dockside for hours on end. My favorite type was steelhead fishing.  I would wade out into the water about waist deep and feel the power of the current pressing against me. Then the thrill of a 20 lb Steelhead or Salmon strike. The adrenaline flows and your heart pumps. Even after decades have past, I can still remember some of those strikes just like it was yesterday.

It’s easy for me to see myself fishing like Peter. In solitude. Waiting. Thinking. “I am a child of the king”..?   He doesn’t feel like the child of the king … His identity is … ?  ________________ ( fill in the blank )

I hear and read discussions all the time about identity. Where you find it… how you lose it… your real one.. your fake one.. Every season of life has an impact on your identity. The question of  identity, who am I,  is central to how we live our life. Jesus knew that was true then just as it’s true now.

I have struggled with identity issues most of my life. Ranging from crippling insecurity and poor self image to over achieving, self important approval addict. I brought all of my identity issues with me when I entered the Christian community. They did not just fall off the day I accepted Christ.  And just like Peter, Jesus is pointing me toward a new realization: “I am a Child of The King”.

And there Peter sets.. fishing… my guess is he had a good long time to think about this before the moment… the strike!  Even if you been fishing your whole life, its still exciting.. I know many grown men who spend countless amounts of time and money to get that little thrill.  It’s a rush.. an adrenaline rush.. bam!  Fish on !

Jesus knows a fact or two about of us humans. We tend to remember things better when the adrenaline is flowing. This is not a fishing trip that Peter will ever forget.  With heart pumping, he remembers Jesus instructions for the first fish he catches ” Open it’s mouth and you will find a coin, take it and give it to the tax men. It will be enough for both of us.”

As Peter handed the coing to the tax men, he had to be moved by the power of this emerging message. It changes everything. He was beginning to see himself as a child of the king. The contrast being the “subjects” he was giving the coin too.

Jesus knew it would take more than a mere proclamation, “we are children of the king” to “print” this seed of truth in Peter’s heart. We are no different. The obstacles that shield this truth and the power that comes from embracing it are many. I don’t think coming to the full realization of this truth is doable on our own steam. We need the same kind of personal miracle, a word from God that Peter had. That’s the picture of Jesus pulling Peter aside. We are dependent on Jesus for this. You cannot muster this up on your own. The picture is you and Jesus, together. Alone. You asking the question: Jesus, who am I ?  And listening for His answer. He will tell you. You are a Child of the King ! Loved in a perfect way. When you hear it for yourself, in your heart, you will never forget it. You will never be the same.

My prayer at the end of this was: Abba, Father.. Let my heart forever settle in the love you have for me and my status as Your Child. A Child of the King !

 

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Seeing is Believing

by on Nov.24, 2012, under Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

As Jesus left the house, he was followed by two blind men crying out, “Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us!” When Jesus got home, the blind men went in with him. Jesus said to them, “Do you really believe I can do this?” They said, “Why, yes, Master!” He touched their eyes and said, “Become what you believe.” It happened. They saw. Then Jesus became very stern. “Don’t let a soul know how this happened.” But they were hardly out the door before they started blabbing it to everyone they met. Right after that, as the blind men were leaving, a man who had been struck speechless by an evil spirit was brought to Jesus. As soon as Jesus threw the evil tormenting spirit out, the man talked away just as if he’d been talking all his life. The people were up on their feet applauding: “There’s never been anything like this in Israel!” The Pharisees were left sputtering, “Hocus-pocus. It’s nothing but hocus-pocus. He’s probably made a pact with the Devil.” (Matthew 9:27-34 MSG)

If ever there was a “bigger picture”  view of the Kingdom of God, this passage is it.  The blind men came “crying out ” .. they knew who He was.  Son of David !.. The coming one.. They had heard the stories.. miracles. People were talking.  They hear the crowd, they follow along.. stumbling along is probably more accurate… crying out for mercy. They have  heard He can heal blindness.. but will He heal them?  Why cry for mercy ? Mercy is what you ask for when you don’t want what you deserve.  Why not “heal me!” Maybe they knew instinctively that mercy is what they really needed. Something more than eyesight.   In other stories like this, Jesus would stop in the street, right where they were and heal the inflicted person. But not these men. He leads them to his home, invites them in. I don’t think thats an accident.

Blindness is a terrible disease. Blindness from birth carries a certain  unique characteristic.  Explain light and color to one who has never experienced either.  True blindness like this does not know its blind until someone tells them.  To have seen and then become blind is a torture all its own. But you do  have memory of the places and faces which either bless you with joy or curse you with regret. To those unfortunate souls born blind, they are left with others trying to describe a dimension of their senses that they are lacking.  I think it’s entirely feasible for the born blind to resist this knowledge, depending on who is doing the informing.  When your eyesight is fine and you are accused of being blind, it takes on a completely new dimension.

Before Jesus heals them.. He asked them ” Do you believe I can do this ?” .  He did not ask everybody He healed this question.  Why them.. was it a trick question, baiting them to doubt or encouraging them to believe? In a very real way I think Jesus asks us this same question everyday.

What a picture of life.. we stumble along.. following the crowds.. only slightly aware of our blind state..spiritually blind… and then we hear the testimony of others saying ” Jesus heals blind people”.  In our culture today as it was in theirs, people who don’t think they are sick, aren’t looking for a cure.

Paul said ” Now, we see through a glass, darkly. But then we will see face to face “. It’s this impaired vision that has my attention. I say,  as many others who are Christ followers also say ” I was blind, but now I see ” and I think we do see to a degree. I now see enough to know that my vision is severely impaired. I don’t even know what I don’t know. Another verse says ” when the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness “. When you think you’re right ( when you’re not ) you’re confidence in your own ” rightness”  becomes your hindrance to seeing the truth !

When the healed blind guys leave ( which is crazy in itself ) a “dumb” guy shows up. It’s possible he has never spoken a word. Every now and then I say something that makes everyone think I’m stupid. With a little luck I can repair the damage and resume my position as “averagely intelligent “. But this man was assumed “stupid” everyday of his life. Not an easy burden to bear. Trapped in his own prison of speechless thought and endless judgement. Jesus wastes no time with “small talk”, He throws out the evil spirit and the healed man starts talking up a storm.  He hears his own voice for the very first time.  The Kingdom comes: Grace, Mercy, Healing & Forgiveness. Where death was reigning, Life begins again.  Jesus gets a standing ovation ! The crowd proclaims  “never before has anything like this happened in Israel ! ” He also leaves Jesus.. and against instruction tells everyone what has happened to Him.  Of course he does. If he went back to his home and his people and didn’t say a word that would truly be outside the realm of human understanding. When we are truly healed, we proclaim it.

Its strikes me in this whole story that the greatest detour-ant to being healed of blindness and dumbness in our culture and times is a complete lack of awareness to our own disease. I think how in my own life as a “Christian ”   I lived for decades in a self deceived state of ” I am not perfect, but I am ok “. The inner fruitlessness of my life in so many ways should have been the clue to me that something was wrong.  I couldn’t see it. Blind and dumb.  Here is what I think is happening all the time.  We hear or over hear that there is ” something ” going on. Something great is happening. People are being healed !! But most of us don’t think we are sick, so we blow it off. Most of this is going on at the sub-conscience level. We classify ourselves and others.  We do so to our own peril. It’s this unrecognized impaired vision that I want healed. But it’s a costly procedure. The first part of the treatment requires earnestly asking God to show you who you really are. A scary and painful request.   A deep look in the mirror and choosing not to look away. Without fail, you will see your disease. But at the same time you will see your Healer…. Jesus. It is His kindness that leads us to repentance. The heartbreaking reality of seeing your disease is the first step into the light. Its the staying in and walking in that light that brings you to the healer….Jesus. Yes, you will see yourself as you really are and that will indeed be painful.. but with this “eye opening awareness” of your true current state you will see the beauty of His forgiveness and Love for you. This kind of forgiveness is pictured in the living example of Mary Magdalene ( the once demon possessed prostitute )   clinging to Jesus after He was resurrected. Her sin exposed, her demons removed, relationship to God restored, her heart and mind healed and the resulting expression of true adoration.  Mary M. kneeling at Jesus feet is the picture of 20/20 vision in a world blind to it’s own disease. This kind of living visual representation of healing and clinging seems to be missing in our modern western church. It exists,  but its hidden from view. But the truth remains the same. I believe Jesus is still healing blind and dumb people everyday, everywhere. He is healing me.  Anyone who hears the crowd and follows.. stumbling along and into the home of Jesus saying “Jesus, I am blind, will You heal me ?”  will hear Him respond:  Yes !

 

If you wish to comment.. please do so via facebook..  thanks,

Gene

 

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Listen Closely – Episode 1

by on Sep.29, 2011, under Gene, Spiritual

The disciples once asked Jesus: “Why do you speak to the people in stories, why not just say it plainly?” He told them.. The stories soften their hardened hearts and prepares them to hear and respond to the truth.

Be ready.. soft hearted.. listen closely

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Matthew 21:33 “Here’s another story. Listen closely. There was once a man, a wealthy farmer, who planted a vineyard. He fenced it, dug a winepress, put up a watchtower, then turned it over to the farmhands and went off on a trip.34 When it was time to harvest the grapes, he sent his servants back to collect his profits.”

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A little musical score if you like..

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So… I am listening.. I love a good story…  ( good movie, etc. ) the scene opens to a lush colorful valley, deep green rolling hills, dotted with exploding bursts of red, orange and yellow flowering trees. It’s springtime in the vineyard. In the distance a man is working in the vineyard. As we move closer we see an older, stately man looking carefully at his vines and branches. He appears pleased with the progress. There is an obvious pride in the work that has been done. It was his own design, built with his own hands. He surveys the vast estate, bordered on all sides with a strong fence, protecting the vineyards from the little foxes and intruders that would destroy the vines. He inspects the winepress where the fruit will be processed and later barreled. He pauses to imagine the festive gatherings, weddings and celebrations where the wine is consumed and joy abounds. He ascends the watchtower where special care is given to oversee all that has and will be done. Satisfied at having made provision for every success, we see him climb aboard  a wagon and with a few words of final instruction he informs his caretakers that he will send some servants soon to collect the profits.  He and his family leave behind his life’s work, really, his pride and joy in the care of  his trusted farmhands which now are as near to him as his own family. He leaves on his quest with peace and confidence envisioning the endless blessings that the future will hold. A few month’s time pass and harvest time is come. With great joy and expectation he sends his servants. He imagines with affection the vineyard and caretakers he left behind as he waits for his servants to return with joyful news and the profits. He anticipates the joy in sharing the blessing with all who labored with him.

THE END.  ( don’t I wish )

Credits:

Wealthy Farmer: God ..aka ( Abba, Father )

Trusted Farmhands: Me and You

_________________________

What a difference it makes to read this story with a softened heart. I have read it both ways.  You immediately connect with the wealthy farmer who is sharing his wealth and his trust with his workers and servants. It is a picture of a thoughtful and loving man, a careful man, a planner, protector, provider. Not a hint of greed or selfishness. There were no posted guards to protect his investment from the untrustworthy help. You want to know this man, be a part of his family. Your sure his children want for nothing. Even to work in his fields would be a blessing.

The people Jesus told this story to were no doubt feeling the same thing. He was opening up their hearts to experience a glimpse of their Father God. His warmth, love, trust and generosity. These people were oppressed in multiple directions. The Romans on one side, the Pharisees and religious leaders on the other. They were starving for a word of hope, longing for salvation to come. This picture of the Father was exactly what their hearts needed.

The story continues…

One dark moonless night back at the vineyard.. a farmhand is persuaded to open the gate to a stranger…

TO BE CONTINUED….

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Fig Tree

by on Sep.24, 2011, under Gene, Spiritual

” The Withered Fig Tree”  Matthew 21: 18-20

“18 Early the next morning Jesus was returning to the city. He was hungry.19 Seeing a lone fig tree alongside the road, he approached it anticipating a breakfast of figs. When he got to the tree, there was nothing but fig leaves. He said, “No more figs from this tree-ever!” The fig tree withered on the spot, a dry stick.20 The disciples saw it happen. They rubbed their eyes, saying, “Did we really see this? A leafy tree one minute, a dry stick the next?”

From a distance the fig tree looked healthy and green, but up close it was fruitless. This scares the bajeebees out of me.

The appearance of success can create the same illusion.  For the most part, I am sure I measure things exactly in this way. I cant help it. I have been taught to measure things this way from childhood on.  Worse yet, I started to believe it about myself.  ” I must be right, look at all this success ! ”  Green leaves on a fruitless tree.

It’s a comb-over or a girdle … you the get the picture. Sellin’ one thing, delivering another. One commentary I read said “the story” with ” the fig tree drama” was about Israel and in part I am sure it was. But for me it’s about my own image management ( Gene’s P.R. firm ) and learning how to identify that same spirit in the culture I live in. Both the world’s culture and the church’s culture. Jesus was clearly addressing both.

The Shock !  The disciples were in awe and shock when the tree instantly withered.  Green leaves one second…. whoosh.. dead, dry stick the next. I think Jesus was also dramatizing the judgement. A fore taste. When it happens, we will all be shocked.

We are the fig tree.  From a distance we look pretty green and leafy. This is especially true if we have some worldly stuff to substantiate our claim. Add in some notoriety, physical attractiveness, an education and charisma. Boom .. your in. Everything is in place. You must have a fruitful tree.

There cant be a more dangerous misconception. The violent and instantaneous nature of ” the withering” is dramatic evidence of the outcome of depending on outward appearances as the validation of fruitfulness. This story is just one of many that warn us of making judgements based on outward appearances. It’s a very dangerous game.

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.10 But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”

The Antidote.

Psalm 139: 23 Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about;24 See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong-then guide me on the road to eternal life.

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Lost, and God Knows it.

by on Sep.27, 2010, under Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

The distance we have fallen away from God and away from who were created to be is far greater than we think. We want to believe we are “just a little messed up.. but not too bad.  sure we make mistakes but fundamentally we’re ok”.
I have changed my opinion..  I think we were and are truly lost. And God knows it. I have been being led toward this thinking more and more as I move toward God. My own sin awareness increases as I approach Him. He is Holy, something we are not. I used to spend tons of time hiding my sin from Him ( and others ) but now I want to give them all too Him. I crave Holiness. I crave Him. This is where my words fail me. I want to describe how I am drawn toward His beauty, His purity and Holiness., but I can’t really. But I can say it’s different than before.. my heart is tender before Him.. His love for me is real and getting realer.
But I know His love never changes, it’s me that has changed, He has changed me.
What did I do in all this?  I died. I surrendered. If I need to die more, please Jesus, help me die more. If I need to surrender more or again.. please Jesus, help me surrender more.
There is a battle… but how strange.. my victory is actually total surrender !
The delusion that says “I am fine, just a little messed up but really ok” wants to return to me. It’s a lie from the father of lies. I need Jesus every moment. It’s why He says it plainly, I am the vine, you are the branches. Stay connected to Me. I am your life, without me you can do nothing! Without the living connection, we are separated from our Savior, our life.
The distance we fell is greater than I thought. I am more messed up than I thought.
But His love is bigger than I thought. Way bigger. I may be lost on a distant and forbidding planet, but I have been bought and rescued. He has now promised to “lead” me. Why not just get me out of here ?
Why has He left me here ? I am purchased..I am rescued.. why not take me out of this mess ?
There can be only one reason. To tell our other lost brothers and sisters that they can be rescued too.
Another truth that remains. Yes, I am rescued but not completely restored to what I was created to be. We are blind children in need of direction. Jesus is the light that will keep us on the path and keep us sensing the Love He has for us. He will keep us “on task”, we are to stay connected. Are very lives depend on it.
It sounds overly dramatic when you say it out loud but thats exactly the truth.
This is one dependancy we are not to get over.
There is only one way, Jesus is it.. there is only one truth, Jesus is it.. and only one life.

Isaiah 42:16 But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don’t fall into the ditch. These are the things I’ll be doing for them— sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.”

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Late Summer Rain

by on Sep.22, 2010, under Gene, On my mind, Poetry

Late Summer Rain

Like tears of the Father from heaven falling

on an unknowing earth for His children.. the strong summer rain.

Through tears and rain new life is found and nourished.

Then the thunder rolls..

His justice is coming.

Swift and powerful, driven by invisible winds.

A rainbow to follow..

Beauty in light..

a foreshadow of splendor unimagined,

in time unmeasurable,

in Love perfected.

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Time Cut Short

by on Sep.19, 2010, under Cambodia, Gene, On my mind, Spiritual

I took this picture while visiting a Cambodian village. This young woman is married. Her husband is off in the city trying to get a job. She is living with her dad. She had just lost a child.

Trouble is relative.. I guess.

Sometimes God wants to do something new….

This is something new for me.. poetry. I have never given poetry much thought. This just happened. I have learned to expect the unexpected when I give myself time to be with God.

Time Cut Short

Father, do not cut short the time.

my days I would shorten, to be with you

and lessen the pain..

but I remember… I am not alone.

The not so distant and distant cries arrive in my ears

at the same time…

They, we are all your children.. you hear everyone.

Tempted to camp in my incompleteness..

It seems departure the better choice

Disappointment to self, to others

to much to bare.

But there they are..

stretched out in both directions

time past and time future

but to you all the same

and I agree with You again..

not one lost who would be saved..

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