Jesus’ Teachings

Matthew 16:13-28; Matthew 17; Matthew 18:1-35; Mark 8:27-38; Mark 9:1-50; Luke 9:18-50; Luke 17:1-10
Matthew 16:24-27 / Mark 8:34-38 / Luke 9:23-26 – I have often heard this passage used to teach that we, as disciples, ought to do something. Pick up your cross meant to evangelize or to submit or sacrifice or something. Jesus said we had to, after all. It has often troubled me because Jesus doesn’t elaborate on what the cross is that we are to take up. I’ve spent some time in mental gymnastics trying to determine what it was, this cross of mine. To Jesus the cross was many things:

  • His ultimate purpose or mission, to go to the cross.
  • A burden to bear.
  • A submission to the Father’s will

I’ve begun to realize, however, that it is not any one thing. We cannot point to this passage and say, “See, Jesus want’s you too __________. (evangelize, sacrifice, submit to a leader, etc.)” It is that last item, submission to God’s will over my own desires, that is the theme of this passage. If we are to be free, to be saved, to be like Jesus and follow Him, we must do as He did, and submit to the Father. Though, as for Jesus in the garden, all of our will longs for something else, we must be determined to do Gods will. That will be a little different for each of us, but we will all discover it within the Bible. It is there we see God revealed, if we are willing to open our eyes and push aside our preconceived notions of what God is. to often we feel as though we have God all figured out, we know what’s expected and what he wants. So we approach the Bible and learning about Him far too casually, knowing what we will find. It is then that we can miss God, yet find what we expect. That is not self denial or submission to God but rather conforming God to our notions of Him. It is all too easy to do and it happens all around us, every day. I have seen it in others for years, and in myself as I looked back to my pre-salvation days. But in recent years I have realized that I too have put on my blinders. As a result, I haven’t seen God, only my ready made image of Him. God is so big, so amazing, so vast, there is no way we will ever have any chance of having Him figured out. I scares me how easily I can stop seeking to see God and become satisfied with the part of Him I’ve already seen. Scary how easily I get pridefull and lazy, thinking there’s nothing more for me to learn, I’ve got it nailed. But I don’t and never will. I pray that God will lead me, ever reminding me of His vastness and my small, finite nature and that in that I may always be searching for Him. In the searching, I will find Him, over and over again.
Mark 9:14-29 – I’ve always loved the comic image that this story creates. A man brings his son to Jesus’ disciples because an evil spirit that throws him into seizures. While he’s talking to Jesus, the boy is throw to the ground, rolling around and foaming at the mouth. When this happens (and those around are gasping and anxious), Jesus turns to the man and asks (calmly, in my mind) :How long has he been like this?” Then Jesus and the man have a discussion about the boy’s condition and the man’s faith, presumably while the boy continues to flail around in the dirt. It’s only when Jesus notices the gathering crowd that He heals the boy. Monty Python couldn’t have written it better.
Luke 9:48 – Lord, help this be my attitude. Help me not to need recognition, but to accept that I am only doing my duty, that which is expected of a disciple of Christ. Nothing noteworthy.
Matthew 18:10 – I love this verse. Oh, how God cares for our little ones that their angels always see His face. He watches over them personally, He does not delegate that job.
Matthew 18:21-35 / Luke 17:3-4 – Forgiveness and grace is to be our standard, not justice and punishment.

Training or Reacting?

In some ways I’ve begun to loathe Sunday mornings. The main reason is that it’s become quite stressful to get the family out the door for church. I’m ashamed to admit (especially considering my position as Deacon of Children’s Ministry at my church) that our Sunday church preparations have become far from Godly. Of course, it’s not just Sunday, it’s just that Sunday is the one day when we all have to get ready and out the door at basically the same time. The stress is concentrated and therefore our shortcomings amplified.
Two things brought me to this realization this morning. The first was hearing my persistent shouting at my girls to get with it and get ready. Get dressed, get your shoes on, go downstairs, get your hair brushed, eat, eat, eat! Something happened this morning that allowed me to sort of stand beside myself and watch and listen. Is this the picture I want in their mind as they remember me years from now? The angry, yelling father? Is this the example that I want to set for them? Look, kids, here’s how you treat the people you love. If they don’t do things right, or how you want, yell at them, berate them until they submit. The thought of it makes me sick. I have been trying, I thought, over the past months to re-focus my energies on teaching them respect rather than just obedience. Isn’t this what God wants of us? I mean if you have the broader idea of respect on straight, obedience will come naturally out of it. Yet there I was, belittling and berating them, no respect in my voice, only frustration and anger. I could see the hurt in their faces, and it hit me like a dagger in the heart.
My wife too, was frustrated with this morning. Her frustration was with their lack of respect for us, as seen in their lack of obedience. It wasn’t just this morning, it’s been an ongoing problem, they just don’t seem to care about what we say. A total lack of respect for authority which will hurt them in other areas of life if not checked. Although my reaction to it was pathetic, she was right. Their utter disregard for our instructions was alarming and discouraging. And then she said something that lit a light bulb in my head. She said, “We are not training them, we are reacting to them.”
I thought about that all day long. She was absolutely right, but I didn’t know what to do with it, and I still don’t. Yet I’m convinced that this is where the solution will be found. As I think about it, I see a basic difference. Training is outward focused, concerned with them, their growth and well being. Reaction it born out of selfishness. They are getting in the way of my plans, inconveniencing me, making me look bad. If I am focused on me, I will react. If I am focused on them, I will train.
Like I said, I don’t know what exactly, practically, to do with this, but the realization alone is a start. Maria and I have committed tonight to pray for wisdom and insight into making this change in our hearts and mindset. We also plan on getting advice from an older couple in the church who, like us, have 3 daughters. Their girls are wonderful grown women, all out of college, which gives me great confidence that they will be able to help us.
Any insight anyone else has would be welcome too.

I Need Your Love

J. Brian Craig is my favorite Christian song writer. He’s written several congregational songs for our church’s songbook, and those are among my favorites to sing. This song has resonated with me today:
I Need Your Love
J. Brian Craig, 1999
© Discipleship Publications International
O I need your love
In this shadowed place
I can’t get enough
Of your sunlight on my face.
When it’s cold and dark
Or I’m far from home
You are in my heart
And I never walk alone.
And just like a tree
Planted by a stream,
Thirsty for a drink
Of your love,
I can’t face a day
Without some time to pray
I sing this song to say
I need your love.

I’m a tiny child
But when I’m with you
I will not grow tired
‘Cause there’s nothing you can’t do.
Your love makes me strong
Though I’m small and weak,
And the whole day long
You’ll speak through me when I speak.
And just like a tree
Planted by a stream,
Thirsty for a drink
Of your love,
I can’t face a day
Without some time to pray
I sing this song to say
I need your love.

You gave all for me
Though I cursed your name
On that bitter tree,
Lord, You suffered for my shame.
How can I thank you?
Your love paid my way.
All that I can do
Is live for You every day.
And just like a tree
Planted by a stream,
Thirsty for a drink
Of your love,
I can’t face a day
Without some time to pray
I sing this song to say
I need your love.

Update: I revised the lyrics to match those on his old (no longer available) website. His current lyrics are now here..
Update 2 (July 27, 2012): Removed the dead links to the LA ICC and added a link to his new website. No MP3 that I could find anymore.

Road Trip

Emily, my middle daughter, and I are off on a road trip this evening to my Mom and Dad’s in Toledo. Each year around this time my Dad adn I take our traditional trip to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show. It’s a tradition that goeas back to when Maria and I lived in Detroit from 1993-1996. We’ve been to the show every year since, except for 199 when my youngest was born. (It didn’t seem appropriate to go off for the weekend with Maria due to give birth any day, nor in the days immediately following.) It’s an amazing automotive spectacle. It takes about 5 or 6 hours to get throught it, and that’s just skimming the surface. We skip the interactive kiosks and jumping in and out of all but a few cars. Hit the show cars, grab a brouchure for my collection and move on.
Emily will get to spend the day by herself with Grandma. She’ll be in seventh heaven, not having to share Grandma with anyone else. That doesn’t happen often. My sister is here in Columbus too, so if we head to Toledo or Mom and Dad come down her family, and 4 kids, are there too. That’s generally a good thing, they all 7 play well together, but it makes one on one time with Grandma or Grandpa a rarity.
We’ll be back sometime Saturday evening, or Sunday after church if the expected snow is too bad.

Interesting …

After getting the text selection issue worked out for the (assumed) majority of my readers who use Internet Explorer, I checked my webstats and found that more of you actually use Mozilla (Firefox) than IE.
While I still use IE (mostly ’cause I ended up un-installing FF and haven’t gotten around to re-installing it yet), I love it that my readers are shunning the Microsoft browser dominance.
I must have a smart set of readers, huh?

Thanks Monica Stewart

I stayed work late tonight working on a personal project for a friend. I left work around 9:00. I got home and went to put my Sony Clie on the table, but it wasn’t hanging from it’s belt clip, only the broken pivot. A wave of panic came over me as I retraced my steps back to the office. I went out to the car, but it wasn’t there. The only other place it could be was in my office parking lot (20 miles North East) or in the office – or at the corner where I had jumped out to clean off the back window. Yikes. I’ve got about $200 in that thing between the Clie and the case, not to mention my debit card and driver’s license …
So after I downed some spaghetti, I headed back north. While on my way a nice woman named Monica Stewart (or Stuart?) saw it lying in the street where I had gotten out. She stopped and picked it up, somehow finding the number of a friend inside. He called my wife who called her back. Even though it was after 10:00 by now, she waited for me to arrive. I had no idea until I rounded the corner, scanning the ground for it and wondering what that blue van was doing there. Monica popped out of the van, waving her arms. “Are you Doug?” she asked with a big grin as she crossed the street. She handed me the Clie and headed quickly back to her van (It’s below 5 degrees in Columbus now.) I managed to thank her several times and determine that she had just picked her kids up from down the street when she saw it laying there. I figure she waited there for me for about a half an hour, with her kids in single digit temps.
Unfortunately someone else didn’t see it and it had been run over and the screen cracked to bits. But, I don’t have to worry about canceling my debit card and getting a new license. Thanks Monica.

Text Selection Fixed!

And there was much rejoicing. OK, I did much rejoicing. This was a particularly annoying bug with IE 6 where you wouldn’t be able to select text on my site for using cut and paste. Thanks to Mike Boyink who I ran into at HYCW (Mean Dean helps me again, though indirectly.) He lead me to this site (through a Google search) with a little bit of java script to add to the end of my templates which fixed the bug.
It has to do with using absolute positioning in my CSS. One of the sites I found tried to explain it, but it mostly went over my head. All I care is it’s fixed with a simple cut and paste. Let me know if you’re still having troubles or if you find something else that I broke in the process.

Happy Birthday Audrey

Today is Audrey’s birthday. She’s our youngest and today she turns 6. I remember when we first started to lead our church’s children’s ministry our oldest kids weren’t much older than 6. They seemed like such big kids and now my youngest is that age. Yikes.
We started today with our family tradition of breakfast in bed for the birthday girl. Then she got a bath and her hair curled and ready to go out. We went to Applebee’s for lunch and then off to Build-A-Bear. She got a kitty with a princess outfit and named it Princess Sparkle. Before we left she opened her presents (a 3 wheeled scooter and the Mulan DVD).
Audrey is a content kid. My sister is nearby and we are often there or they’re here. There’s 7 kids between us, all under 11, and Audrey can frequently be found by herself, quietly playing with a toy or looking at a book. She’s in all day kindergarten in a multi-age class with first graders too. She’s picked up on reading pretty quickly and can sound out most words and can even figure out how to spell them. Maybe it’s just normal (seems faster than the other two.) but I’m amazed at how fast she’s picked it up.
She’s also got an incredible long term memory, but not so good short term. She remembers the color of my great aunt’s casket (she was barely 3) but couldn’t remember where the lunch room was at school the other day.
She’s cute as a button – and she knows it. She’s tiny, she get’s mistaken for 4 a lot. She’s got a grin that just melts Daddy’s heart.
Happy birthday, baby boo.


Well, when I linked to my friend Paul’s new blog, I was excited to have him blogging. Then 12 days passed without a peep. At first I wondered if he was serious about blogging (sorry to doubt you, bro) but as time went on I hoped he was OK. Paul’s health isn’t so good.
My friend Paul has been through a lot. I mean an amazing amount. Really. He’s posted about his health struggles, and I’d encourage you to read it. Not so you can go “Awww” and feel sorry for him, Paul wouldn’t be impressed and frankly probably doesn’t want the attention. No, you should go for two reasons. One, to get some perspective on your own troubles and woes. And two, to be inspired by a man who’s been through the wringer and still loves God and is passionate to know Him. He’s an inspiration to me.
How bad can it be you wonder? Well, go read it, but to summarize, about 4 1/2 years ago he spent 16 weeks in an induced coma followed by months of physical therapy. He’s had multiple surgeries and been in and out of the hospital and unable to work since. His situation now?

Now, at this time, I now am diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, diabetes, renal insufficiency, fatty liver, portal hyper tension, parathyroid condition, hypertrygliserosis, insulin resistance, inflamed spleen, inflamed panceas, herniatic intestine, nausia, chronic back pain, depression, OCD, PCSD, and as of last Wednesday, a infractured right foot (which I got from a fall when I blacked out). So try to deal with all of that along with financial devestation, raising a seven year old, and keeping a marriage healthy, and in a constant state of needing help from church, family, and state. We scrape, beg, plead, and generally have to ask for help consistantly. On top of all that, I am writing all the time. Not just this blog, but a book of poetry, a juvenial fiction novel, a full length Christian Sci-Fi novel in comic book form, and some advanced notes on reformation needs within contemporary New Testament Christianity. Oh, did I mention my spoiled dog? Well, needless to say, I recieved bad news this morning. My kidneys are rapidly failing, and I will probably need to go back on dialysis, maybe even within the week. This is a big bummer. I hate dialysis.

Meet with Paul and you’d have no idea that he was battling so much. He’s giving and joyful and revels in his God. Next time you complain about a sore back or a cold or sniffles, think about Paul and the folks like him and give thanks to God for your health.

A Tour of Galilee

It’s been far too long since I sat down with a Bible just to read. I’ve been struggling to find the inspiration, battling between the desire to schedule and set goals and frankly just not wanting to. I got a call last night, however, from a new friend (we had met briefly when he was here in Columbus for a visit.) Jay, husband of Amy who comments here occasionally, wanted to talk to me. He just wanted us to share about our experiences in the ICOC, each of us having been members for about 18 or 19 years. We talked for about a hour and a half about everything surrounding the recent upheaval and revelations in our churches and what they’ve meant to us personally. I was struck by how easily and quickly Jay was able to cite scripture. He asked about my Bible reading and I confessed that I found it hard to get motivated read. He too confessed that he’d rather read other stuff than the Bible, but he forces himself too because “I love to hear God talk to me.” That statement struck a chord with me and helped me find new motivation to get into my Bible and look for the messages that God has for me. I too want to hear God talk to me. Thanks Jay.
Matthew 15:21-39, 16:1-12; Mark 7:24-37, 8:1-26
Mark 7:36-37, Matthew 15:29-31 – The people were amazed at what Jesus was doing but hey should have been amazed at his heart. Needy, helpless and hopeless people constantly came to Him and he never snapped at them or turned them away. I get cranky when my three kids get wound up. And the people’s response is to bring more, piling on the needs for Him to fill. And He does. And they praised God. The message? Meet people’s needs and they’ll come back for more. Keep it up and you’ll show them God.

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