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The Hard Sayings of Jesus

Let’s be honest. We would rather not deal with some of the things Jesus said. We prefer to dwell on more palatable words like love, grace, and mercy. The stories of miracles and expressions of compassion stir our souls. But Jesus was anything but safe in His words or deeds. Why else would His enemies be so intent on His extermination? Do we, His followers, understand that following Him is risky, even dangerous?

F.F. Bruce was a professor and author noted for books and biblical commentaries like New Testament History, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? And Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. He also penned the book, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, in which he explored seventy of the sayings of Christ that challenge the idea that we can only think of the Lord as gentle Jesus, meek and mild.

In the preface of his book, Bruce wrote: “His yoke is easy and His burden is light, but His sayings are often hard because they run counter to well-entrenched presuppositions and traditional assumptions about life and human relations. It is all too easy to believe in a Jesus who is largely a construction of our own imagination – an inoffensive person whom no one would really trouble to crucify.”

We have introduced a theme for this season in our church life – “Going Deeper.” To go deeper is not just an attempt to gather more information or to be busier with religious activity. At some point as we take responsibility for our own spiritual transformation, we have to take the Gospel seriously. We must center our lives on our relationship with the One who promised abundant living (John 10:10) but also asked us to pick up our cross to follow Him (Luke 9:23).

Don’t know where to start?

  • Reading, studying, praying Scripture – begin in the Psalms or the Gospel of John
  • Invest time in reading helpful books –Practicing the Presence by Brother Lawrence; The Common Made Holy by Neil T. Anderson & Robert Saucy; The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
  • Investigate the Daily Examen, a powerful way to develop a life of prayer

Jesus never promised an easy road, but He did promise to walk alongside each step.

Contentment

From the Orlando Business Journal: “David and Jackie Siegel, the king and queen of Orlando-based Westgate Resorts, are both well past ready to see the completion of their massive Isleworth home, Versailles — but there’s still a ways to go.

The 90,000-square-foot Versailles mansion has been under construction for more than a decade and has its own celebrity status, thanks to the 2012 documentary, ‘The Queen of Versailles.’ But one thing the house doesn’t have yet is tenants, as construction has been off and on for years.”

It seems the house isn’t big enough with 30 bathrooms, 15 bedrooms, 11 kitchens, 6 pools, 2 movie theaters, 8000-square foot master suite, spa, bowling alley, indoor skating rink, underground parking for 30 cars, and a stadium tennis court seating 200 spectators. “I think I may want a bigger house with a couple more guest houses and a bigger closet,” said Jackie Siegel. The Versailles home is slated to be finished before the end of the year after almost 15 years of construction.

Good luck Siegels. We all hope you will be able to manage. I don’t know anything about these people, but at first glance I’m a bit nauseated.

Paul wrote to his friends in Philippi: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have” (4:11).

Being content is never about having enough or more than we need. Being content is a state of soul, living in a deepening trust in our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. I hope the Siegels find contentment. Something tells me it won’t be found in a bigger mansion.

 

Flat Earth Society

“Modern Flat Earth societies consist of individuals who believe that the Earth is flat rather than an oblate spheroid. Such groups date from the middle of the 20th century; some adherents are serious and some are not. Those who are serious are often motivated by pseudoscience or religious literalism.” (Wikipedia)

Some people claim the Bible posits a flat earth. Ancients believed in a three-tiered creation. The heavens formed the canopy over the earth as a solid firmament. Some believed the stars were windows into heaven. The earth was not regarded as a globe, but as finite and flat. There are many stories of mariners who were terrified they might sail over the edge of the world. The underworld was just that, the mysterious place of shadows.

Most recently, some claimed that the total eclipse proves that the world is flat. The Flat-Earthers questioned why they were told not to look at the eclipse directly. What was being hidden? They also questioned how an object could cast a shadow smaller than itself.

Yes, and there was a time when humanity was convinced that the sun revolved around the earth, that the earth was the center of the universe. The human mind is an amazing creation, but sometimes it isn’t engaged as designed!

The psalmist wrote: “When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are mere mortals that You should think about them, human beings that You should care for them?” (Psalm 8); and “The heavens proclaim the glory of God, the skies display His craftsmanship” (Psalm 19).

Creation of the universe is astounding, but the greatest miracle is the gift of life and relationship we humans enjoy. The Westminster Shorter Catechism reads: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

Conspiracies aside, we were created by a gracious and generous God to experience and explore His love. Let’s go deeper into that love!

Coke what?

Trying to take my mind off the misery of devastating weather …

  • Coke has a learning problem. Perhaps they have a short memory. Remember what a hit New Coke was? Now they are messing with Coke Zero.
  • Then there was the guy who robbed the convenient store wearing his motorcycle helmet. He must have forgotten the nameplate with his name on it just above the visor.
  • At church one Sunday, we lost power and the sanctuary was very uncomfortable. A couple of our guys had a bright idea. They brought in electric fans to cool the room. Think about it.
  • When an attempted robbery at a Lowes Home Improvement store went awry, Milton J. Hodges fled across the street and jumped a fence … right into the Cypress Cove Nudist Resort & Spa. As the Orlando Sentinel pointed out, “As one of the only folks wearing clothing,” Hodges was easily spotted by police. You think.
  • A 12-year-old boy adamantly denied having stolen an iPhone when questioned by police at his home. And then the iPhone rang in his closet. Whoops!
  • In July, he turned 104. This November, she will be 93. They have been married for 75 years. It’s a first for this Washington state couple: Two hurricanes slamming two different parts of the United States bearing their names, Harvey and Irma Schluter.

This has been a tough stretch for people in the Islands, Mexico, Texas, Florida, and other places. Lives have been lost. Families shattered. The economic impact will be felt for years. We see the worst in people who descend to scams and looting, but we also see the best in people who come to the aid of others. Irma is starting to fade but still brings damage and difficulty. Let’s keep praying for those who felt nature’s wrath and those still in the path of high winds and rising waters. First Responders, as always, are doing what they do best. God bless each one.

Lost in all the coverage of the storms is the sad reality that we observe another anniversary of the attacks on 9/11. We may have moved on or have become distracted, but for thousands of people this day will always be a nightmare. We must never forget.

 

A Season of Storms

The Sea of Galilee was known for sudden, ferocious storms. The people who plied those waters understood the risk as they cast their nets or traveled from shore to shore. In Mark 4, Jesus accompanied the disciples as they left the crowds behind, heading for the other side of the lake. “But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat and it began to fill with water” (v.37). Panic ensued. Too be caught out in the open could have been a death sentence. The disciples, several of them seasoned fishermen, flipped from panic to fearful exasperation when they saw Jesus still asleep in the stern. “Teacher, don’t You care that we’re going to drown?”

We know how the story ends. Jesus calmed the storm and alarmed the disciples. “Who is this man? Even the wind and waves obey Him” (v. 41).

Chris Cadenhead made this observation: “The key to understanding this story may lie in the fact that Jesus was even in the boat with them at all. That means He put Himself in the path of the same storm that threatened them.”

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). God is not some distant observer. When Jesus entered the world, He came to experience life with His creatures. He felt pain, knew fatigue, got angry, grieved, wept, and suffered. Storms are nothing new to Him.

There are times when He silences the storm, but there is never a time when He isn’t in the boat with us. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). We need to cling to that when it would be easy to panic or get discouraged.

Harvey has left a trail of devastation. Irma brings terrible destructive power. Jose is not far behind. Who knows what is coming next? More than ever, we need to seek the presence and peace of the Lord of the storm.

Escape

Escape rooms have been around for a while. Depending on whom you believe, a Japanese man came up with concept in 2007 or a guy in Budapest created the idea in 2011. These adventure games require critical thinking by solving puzzles through clues, hints, and strategies. There are fixed rooms and there are video games to challenge the most daring thrill-seekers. Companies and universities use escape rooms to provide a release for the over-stressed and over-worked. Like most other things, people get obsessed. You can confront zombies, pirates, terrorists, or kidnappers. You can find yourself trapped in a prison or a space station, looking for clues to break out. Since finding the secret to solve the puzzle is time-sensitive, you can also freak out.

Escape rooms? That sounds like a great idea for someone with the toughest job in the world … dealing with preschoolers. How about a person whose heart was broken over a failed relationship? Or the kicker who blew the game-winning field goal? Or the business woman who botched negotiations for a big deal in her company? Or the guy who sees no way out when life crushes his dreams?

There are times for all of us when escape sounds really good. Escape can be harmful when we are just trying to avoid reality. We can live in a fantasy world just so long before there are negative consequences. However, there are healthy ways to escape. Just changing up our routine might help. Recreation can truly be re-creation for the mind, body, and soul. Practicing the discipline of solitude can help us get centered.

That’s what Jesus did. There were times when He needed to escape … the demands of the crowds, the pressure of mentoring the disciples, facing the constant attacks of His enemies. The Bible records that Jesus would pull away, find a quiet place, and commune with His Father.

If escaping replenishes us and empowers us to stay the course, we owe it to ourselves, the people we love, and the commitments we have made to find a way. We weren’t created to run on fumes!

A Painful Discovery

It sank in twelve minutes. Two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine dealt the fatal blows. On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis had delivered vital components for the atomic bomb that would fall on Hiroshima and was headed back to base. Her secret mission ended with disaster. 1196 sailors and Marines were aboard. Hundreds were killed in the attack but most survived. 900 men went into the waters of the Pacific. Days later a plane spotted a raft and rescue operations finally commenced. Only 316 men were saved. The rest perished because of exposure, dehydration, drowning, and shark attacks.

After 8 years of searching, a team led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen found the wreckage at a depth of 18,000 feet. CNN writer Immanuel Grinberg wrote an article about the discovery, quoting a relative of one of those who died: “After 72 years, the Indy might’ve finally been found, but I’m still lost in a sea of tears.”

Only about 20 of the survivors are still alive today. For some of them and the families of those lost, there is gratitude that the ship was finally located. For many others, the news opened wounds long thought closed.

Controversy has swirled about this tragic episode for decades. President Harry Truman was vilified by some, hailed by others. He made the decision to use a weapon that both cost and saved lives. War is indeed hell.

Even amidst the horror of vicious sharks taking men, there were stories of gallantry and sacrifice. A sailor who gave up his life jacket to a wounded man and then slipped below the waves … groups of men uniting to fend of the bloodthirsty predators … sharing the meager supplies of food and water. In the worst of times, the human spirit can soar.

We could use some soaring in our day.