Monthly Archives: May 2019

Who is Jesus?

At one point in Jesus’ ministry he asks the disciples who people were saying he was.  “They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’” Jesus came back at them and asked, “But what about you?  Who do you say I am?”

Peter steps forward and says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus commends Peter, saying, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”  (Mt. 16:13-20)

We may not appreciate how astounding Peter’s declaration was.  The Jewish people had been waiting for centuries for the coming of the Messiah.  For almost a millennium the prophets of Israel had been predicting the coming of a Messiah, the “Anointed One.”  The Jewish people had built up high expectations who this Messiah would be and what he would do in terms of delivering Israel from its enemies.  Some unknown itinerate preacher from a remote location like Nazareth would hardly meet their expectations.

It is clear from Jesus’ initial response that the disciples’ first answer was not satisfactory.  They couldn’t get by with mouthing what other people were saying, even though that is how Jesus posed the question.  He wanted to hear what they thought and believed.

As Jesus did with the disciples, so he does with us in asking, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Are we just going along with what others say, with what our parents and the church said about Jesus when we were growing up, or have we truly digested what others say and what scripture says, and have decided for ourselves in our words and actions that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God?

This decision is not without its cost or sacrifice, for Jesus shortly thereafter tells the disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)  Believing that Jesus is the Son of God and following him means following his teaching, his example of sacrifice and God’s will for our lives.

Yesterday we celebrated a day to remember the hundreds of thousands of men and women in our armed forces who have sacrificed their lives so that the rest of us might continue to live in the freedom of this nation’s founding principles of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

May the daily actions of the rest of us who claim Jesus as Son of the living God, also reflect a sacrifice in the love of God and the people in our lives.  

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  (Isaiah 9:6)


How Should We Love?

In Jesus’ last discourse with the disciples, he says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34; repeated at John 15:12)

St. Augustine asks how is this a new commandment and is it not contained in the old law? “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)  Augustine answers his own question.  Jesus is setting a new standard.  We are to love by more than how we love ourselves, a love motivated by self-interest. Rather, we are to love in the same way Jesus loved his disciples and us.

How did Jesus love his disciples and how does he love us?

  • He called each of them personally, as he does us.
  • He taught them by his word and example, as we are taught by Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
  • He prayed for them, as he intercedes for us with the Father.
  • He who was God, humbled himself to become one of us, and laid down his life for all of us.

Let me offer a story of how this can play out in real life.

John was a county prosecutor in Minnesota. In one of his early cases he was surprised to look across the counsel table and see a former high school friend, Jim, as the defendant.  Over the next twenty-six years, Jim would be prosecuted many times for theft-related crimes to support a chemical dependency.

In subsequent cases, when John saw Jim in court he told him that he was praying for him.  At first, Jim would say, “John, don’t waste your time,” but then he would come to appreciate that someone was caring about him.

In a final case, Jim was again caught with a large cache of stolen goods, pleaded guilty, and was on his way back to prison.  While awaiting sentencing, Jim learned that he was terminally ill with sclerosis of the liver.  His lawyer persuaded the court to let him die in hospice outside of prison.  Jim also asked his lawyer to request that John pray for him.

Over the next six months, John did more than just pray for him.  He visited Jim two to four times a week.  They would reminisce about growing up together and talking about their favorite baseball teams and players.  They also read the Bible together.  That fall, Jim repented of his sins and surrendered his life to Jesus Christ.  He died in late November.

John observed, “Over those last six months, I frequently called Jim ‘brother’ because we were brothers in Christ.  Jim loved reading and praying the psalms, and they have new meaning to me now.  God used Jim to teach me about acceptance of suffering and perseverance, and he showed me that it is never too late to say yes to the Lord, no matter what we have done in the past.”

John concludes, “Because God answers prayers, Jim said ‘yes’ to Christ before he died, and I know he is in paradise today – just like another thief who died on a cross next to Jesus 2000 years ago.”

John laid down his life for Jim with his time and support, and patiently guided him to Christ.

“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

Grateful Hearts

IMG_0126 Andrew's graduation“I will praise God all my life; I will sing praise to God as long as I live.”  Psalm 146:2

This past weekend we were blessed to attend the college graduation of our first grandson, Andrew.  What a blessing it has been to see him grow from birth to the fine young man he has become today!

On such an occasion, many memories flood the zone — from carrying him on my forearm as a baby to wrestling with him when he was three or four.   When he was 10, he flew from Raleigh, NC to Washington by himself to visit us.  He was so talkative when got off the plane, describing every detail of his trip.  We toured Washington’s many sites and got to witness from the Senate gallery a roll call vote involving over ninety senators, while I tried to offer a small civics lesson.  A couple of summers ago, we welcomed him again at the Capitol, but this time as he joined other members from his college fraternity to cycle from San Francisco to Washington over period of two months to raise awareness and financial support for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

God is the author and creator of the family.  He has blessed us with five children and thirteen grandchildren.  Four of our children are now raising Christian families of their own.  Our fifth child has a disability and continues to live with us.  We are so grateful to be a part of God’s plan for his creation and life.

Life is, of course, full of many challenges and over the years we see both ups and downs.  Yet, to see your own children move through childhood into the roles of being parents themselves and seeing them extend God’s plan for creation through their children adds to the blessing.

The Book of Proverbs says, “Children’s children are a crown to the aged.” (PV 17:6)  My wife and I do not care much about crowns, but we are grateful for the family God has given us and the roles of Mom and Dad, and Grammy and Pop Pop that he has accorded us to serve him in his plan for creation.   

Recognizing God’s Presence

“It’s the Lord!”  These are the words of the apostle John, recognizing Jesus standing on shore after he had directed the disciples to cast their net on the right side of the boat, resulting in the catch of 153 large fish. John 21:1-14)

This was the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection in John’s gospel, but they failed to recognize him.  They had gone fishing the night before, and when Jesus called out to them from shore asking if they had caught anything, they did not recognize him.  Only after they caught a large amount of fish did John recognize that it was Jesus.

A similar thing happened to others to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection.  Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus outside his tomb until he said her name, “Mary.”  (John 20:16)  The two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus who walked with them for quite some time until he later broke bread with them. (Luke 24:31)

Like the disciples and Mary Magdalene, how often do we fail to recognize the Lord’s presence in the circumstances of our lives? 

The unexplained recovery from a serious illness; a friend who comes to our aid in a time of serious need; a thought that comes out of the blue which solves an agonizing dilemma; the unexpected forgiveness from a family member we have offended; an answer to prayer for something we thought would never happen; the narrow escape from a serious accident — all of these may be examples of God’s love, care and presence to us.

A few years ago my son, Steve, son-in-law, Greg, and I were boating down the Atlantic Intercostal Waterway.  On the second day we ran into gale force winds on the Chesapeake Bay on our way to Norfolk, Virginia.  The winds were coming out of the northeast generating waves of five to six feet or more.  The Coast Guard had posted two flags which meant that the winds were blowing at 39 to 54 mph.  Because we were heading south and the winds were coming at us from our stern, it was more difficult to control the steerage of the boat.

We of course put on our life jackets.  I asked Steve to go down into the cabin for additional ballast, and Greg to stay with me on the fly bridge to keep watch of our location on the GPS.  The skies were quite overcast and visibility to shore and the markers designating the channel were marginal.  There weren’t any safe inlets along this portion of the Bay to go for cover, and it would have been too dangerous to turn toward shore with the winds and waves then hitting us broadside.

Never having experienced these conditions before, I found myself learning how to control the boat as we proceeded.  The key was not pulling back on the throttle as the boat accelerated down the front side of a wave in order to avoid the boat turning sideways and capsizing.  This almost happened to us early on.  It took us over four hours to reach Norfolk which was not that far.  I was never so happy to see the outlines of an aircraft carrier through the haze at the Norfolk Naval Base.

Because I was so concentrated on maintaining control of the boat over the entire period, I never even remembered to pray for God’s protection.  But looking back and reflecting on all that happened and our safe arrival at the day’s destination, I can say, “It was the Lord!”

boat mancation 2014-61 (2)

[Steve, son-in-law Ralph who joined us on the return trip home, yours truly and Greg.]