Saturday, August 30, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

To celebrate Labor Day Weekend I spent the afternoon mowing the yard. The normally easy task was complicated by the fact that the last time I mowed it rained before I could get to the backyard. So today the backyard was quite a bit taller than usual and took about twice as long. In addition to that, the specialty bolt that serves as the axle for one of the rear wheels broke in the middle of the job. A quick trip to Lowe's and come creative engineering had the mower repaired and back in service so that I could finish the job. All of this while young son was at the lake with his girl and her family celebrating Labor Day in a more traditional fashion.

At least we did manage some homemade vanilla ice cream and fresh baked berry cobbler. I doubt that there is any summer time treat that can compare to homemade ice cream! Adding the berry cobbler is almost sinful!

Since Aaron wasn't planning on coming home this weekend (until he found out Jenny was coming home!) I had agreed to work tomorrow afternoon for a co-worker. I always work on Monday afternoons, so my Sunday/Monday evenings on this holiday weekend will be spent watching the skies for all of you weekend travelers. To borrow a phrase from CSI Miami's Horatio Caine, "We never close."

Getting back to creative engineering, here is a great game to challenge your own creative engineering skills. It's called fantastic contraptions. Go through the tutorial and you'll find it to be quite addicting.

I'm really looking forward to our church service tomorrow morning. The service will feature a song that is written by three of our own guys. I know that it will be a great offering to God!

Well I do hope that all of you have a great holiday weekend. It is fitting that we honor our country's laborers and those that have helped the labor movement to progress. I sincerely hope that we can get back to a country that values the working spirit of our men and women and quits sending jobs overseas or south of the border to Mexico.

Have a grand weekend,


Friday, August 29, 2008

DNC is History/RNC Next Week

As the Democrats head home from Denver the Republicans await Sen. John McCain's announcement of his running mate. They (the Republicans) are also making their way to Minnesota for their own convention and another exiting week for the media that will covering it.

I managed to hear Sen. Clinton's address and Sen. Obama's acceptance speech. I thought that Sen. Obama gave a great speech...but we all expected that he would. He is a wonderful orator. If one could believe everything that he said he would certainly win by a landslide in November. Of course, he is a politician and so believing everything that he said is difficult for even the most sincere followers. I did like his encouragement to find common ground on issues. Even if we can't agree about pro-choice/pro-life issues, we can all agree that we need to do something about the number of unwanted pregnancies. Even though midwest hunters and inner city dwellers have differing views on the right to bear arms, we can all agree that we need to keep AK-47's out of the hands of criminals. Even though we disagree on same sex marriages, we can agree that a life partner has a right to visit in the hospital. Too often we focus on differences and miss out on solving problems.

We'll wait to hear what Sen. McCain has to say and then it will all be debated over the coming months. In the end we make a choice. The great experiment continues.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

One of My Favorite People

I've recently seen a couple of different writing contests that involve writing about life events or a personal story. I don't know that I really feel like entering a contest, but if I were going to write such a story it would be about a man named Gene Rainwater.

I first met Gene when Chris and I moved from Northwest Indiana to St. Louis. I was a new disciple at the time and pretty much devouring everything that I could to "catch up" on what I had missed. I was in my early twenties and little kids knew more scripture than I did. I listened to radio preachers whenever I was in the car (which was often since I was selling insurance at the time) and tried to figure out the differences and similarities between the Catholicism I had grown up with and Evangelical Christianity.

Chris and I found a home at Christy Park General Baptist Church in South St. Louis City. Gene was the Sunday School Superintendent and in spite of his tall stature, was a very unassuming man. He was quick to laugh, full of grace and a man of quiet dignity, deep integrity and the kind of person that everybody loved to love. I don't know what Gene Rainwater saw in this arrogant young man (probably somebody that needed a lot of help) but he decided that I needed a mentor and that he was going to be that person. Although the Sunday School Superintendent had never had (or needed) an assistant before, Gene convinced the powers that be that he needed one and that he needed for it to be me.

At the time, I thought that Gene had given me a lot of freedom in this new role. Looking back I can see that he was always there--suggesting, guiding, letting me think that I was coming up with ideas that were his all along. Just spending time with Gene was an adventure. He had a great family and Chris (Christine to Gene) and I were invited to their home or family gatherings often. It was as if we were a part of the family.

Gene always seemed to have a project person or family. I can't say how many times he told me of somebody that he was helping with a place to live, a job, a car--you name it, Gene was there to help. These weren't people that he dragged to church--that was never a condition for receiving his help. He would invite them, to be sure, and always told them of Jesus--it was just his nature. When he talked to me about them it was different than what you would expect from a "church" person. He was never judgmental. He was never boastful. He was always concerned. I don't think that he ever even asked me to pray for them. It was like he just expected that I would want to pray for them (and him) after we talked.

Gene modeled Jesus. He was a tall, lanky country boy that really loved God. Even after we moved away from St. Louis, Gene influenced my life. I don't think that I ever really told him how much of an influence that he was or how often I have told people his name when speaking of my "heroes of the faith." I can't think of a person that had more of an impact on my Christianity than Gene. He was probably the least surprised person in the world when I told him that I felt God's call to preach the Gospel. I think that God had let him in on His plans all of those years ago when Gene became my self-appointed mentor.

It was around that time that Gene was diagnosed with cancer. I can't tell you much about what kind of cancer, but I can tell you that even as he battled cancer he remained positive, determined and was still the kind of person that you would want to be around. We made a quick trip to St. Louis just to see him a short time before he died. He was in the hospital, mostly incoherent, and just a shadow of the giant of a man that I had grow to love so much. I was crushed the day that he died.

Here's what I remember about that day:

A nearby church had scheduled a gospel magician to come for their Sunday morning Children's Church. He would be flying in on a private plane Sunday morning. The weather for that day was forecast to be stormy and so the magician canceled the engagement the day before. The pastor called my pastor and then they called me at work to see if I would be available. Now this was Saturday morning for a program the very next day. At this point in my ministry I had never done anything like this. As a matter of fact, I had to use every effect that I knew to fill the time that they wanted me to fill. I was up late at night and early in the morning to prepare. I was excited and nervous and counting on God to help me through the two morning services.

Sunday morning came and as forecast, it was a cloudy, dreary morning. The program went well. For some reason the first one seemed to be better than the second, although I expected it to be the other way around. When it was over I received a check that was for more than I ever expected it to be! And to top it all off, by the time I was ready to leave the sun had come out and it looked like a beautiful day. I called Chris (she had gone to our church with the kids) and told her of my good fortune and we decided on a restaurant to meet for lunch. Several other church friends were there and I was on top of the world.

When we got home, there was one message on our answering machine. It was Glenda (Gene's wife). She had called a couple of times without leaving a message but knew that she may get busy and didn't want to forget later. She apologized for leaving the news on our answering machine but told us that Gene had gone home to be with Jesus.

I was numb. I knew that this was coming, but I was numb just the same. I went back outside and stood in the sun. Chris came out to ask if I was okay. I don't remember what I told her. I just remember her touch and then she left me alone. I don't think that I was mad at God. I don't think that I had any questions for Him. I knew that the way of all living things is to die. I just knew that I was going to miss my friend and I hurt inside my heart. I don't remember how long I stayed outside or anything else about that afternoon...except...

I remember that I must have had a meeting at the church that afternoon--one of those before the evening service meetings. I know that I left early for church and drove by myself. Do you remember how the day had started out rainy and gloomy? There were still some showers throughout the day in areas all around us. I think that we were in the sunshine all afternoon. The sun was shining brightly in the west as I drove to church in the late afternoon. The rain had moved off to the east and the sky was dark over there. I could see that it was raining.

And then...there it was. It was the brightest rainbow that I had ever seen. The kind that makes you want to stop and admire it. The primary rainbow was incredible and even the secondary bow was brighter than usual. I smiled. It was as if God was sending me a personal message. He was saying, "John, I'm still here. I'm still in control. I'm still sovereign. I'm still God."

I looked back to find it again and it was quickly fading. By the time I had driven the few miles to church it had completely vanished. In my own thoughts I think that Gene had something to do with that. He was always giving; always concerned about people with hurting hearts. It would have been like him to pause in the midst of the celebration of seeing his Savior to ask if there wasn't something that He could do to ease the hurt of his friend.

Today, when I see a rainbow, I think of Gene. I remember that God is still God and I smile. I always smile.


Monday, August 25, 2008

A Little Bit of Politics

Alright, I'm putting the target squarely on my back. I know that there are some of my fellow church members and other Christians that read this blog from time to time, so I am getting ready for the fall out.

Since I've stated some of my positions in the past, maybe this won't come as too much of a shock. On the other hand, the idea that a Christian (and a preacher, no less) could support a Democrat is always shocking to some. First, I truly have to say that I am disappointed beyond what words can express at the candidates that we have to choose from. Having said that, I cannot imagine an America after another four years of the same Administration. And make no mistake--Senator McCain has supported President Bush 95% of the time in the past few years. A vote for McCain is a vote to continue in the economic woes that have come upon us.

As a labor union kind of guy, this Administration has constantly attacked my family budget. No raises for the past three years and none in the remainder of my career as an Air Traffic Controller. Insurance costs have gone up each, you know the song--second verse, same as the first.

I am so disappointed that the conservatives are so easily duped into believing the political rhetoric and never look to see that the actions just don't match up with the promises. There are no conservatives in Washington! (By the way, conservative is not interchangeable with republican any more than liberal is with democrat!)

Here is a press release from the President of the AFL-CIO on the selection of Sen. Biden:

AFL-CIO PRESS RELEASE: Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney On Selection of Sen. Joe Biden

In asking Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate, Barack Obama has affirmed the judgment it takes to be President of the United States and an understanding of the team it will take to turn around America.

Sen. Biden is not only one of the most experienced foreign affairs experts in our country, he’s an eloquent and unwavering defender of working families and opponent of the Bush Administration’s war on workers. He’s a man of great faith and modest means who has lived his life in direct contrast to those who support Bush and his would-be successor, John McCain. He’s honest and outspoken and he’s never forgotten his working-class roots.

Joe Biden will be received and supported wholeheartedly by the working women and men of America and our unions. We are more enthusiastic than ever about electing Barack Obama and Joe Biden and getting on with the job of changing America to work for all.

Also a link to the previous NATCA President's Blog and a rerun of an post that he ran many months ago.

If reading all of this doesn't start the tongues wagging, pulling onto the church parking lot with my Obama bumper sticker surely will!

Ready. Aim. Fire!


Sunday, August 24, 2008

John 21

And finally we arrive at the end of the Gospel According to John. I really like the story in found in John 21.

It is a story that I used as a sermon text to close out the Revival at Hopedale a couple of years ago. It is a story that really comes down to identifying with Peter in spite of the centuries that separate us.

It has been about three years since Peter started following the man Jesus. In that time, Peter witnessed many miracles. He heard God's voice from heaven. He saw Moses and Elijah with Jesus. He even walked on water. He believed Jesus to be the Son of God. He believed Jesus to be the Messiah. But now Jesus was dead. Even though the disciples had seen the risen Jesus, they still were unsure of what was next. They had been hiding out for fear that the Jewish leaders were going to come after them next. In the midst of fear and doubt, what does Peter do?

He announces that he is going fishing. If you'll recall, Peter (in his life prior to Jesus) was a fisherman. I think that this was more than just a way to kill a day. It was more than just finding something to do. I think that like most of us, Peter was returning to a life that he had been comfortable with. Without his teacher and friend to lead him on, Peter was going back to what he knew.

There is a problem here. Once you've had an encounter with the Son of God, you can't just go back to the way you were before. Once you've had a personal relationship with God, you can't be the same person that you were before. God's nature makes that impossible. And if you try to go back, Jesus will come looking for you.

In the story, Jesus (after three years) uses the same words to call Peter to service that He used in the beginning, "Follow me." His calling doesn't change for you or me either. It is the same as it was for Peter and the others, "Follow me."

Jesus even give Peter a clue as to what will happen to him. History records that Peter would indeed follow Jesus. On day Peter would also be crucified. It is interesting that Peter would wonder about what fate was ahead for John. But Jesus pretty much tells him that it isn't any of his business.

Sometimes we get wrapped up in what others are doing in the Kingdom. We point our fingers and ask, "What are they doing for the Kingdom?" I think that Jesus would tell us, "It isn't any of your business." Each one of us has only ourselves to answer for...and only Jesus to answer to.

For today, I've learned that you can't go back. You can't unlearn what you've learned and you can't undo what you've experienced. We are a product of all of the days of our lives; everything that we've learned; everything that we've experienced; every word that we've uttered; every act that we've done (or failed to do) and every thought that we've had. Once you've had an encounter with the Living God, you are different and you can't change that. Peter could not go back to fishing for fish. He had been called and trained to fish for men.

Verse that I liked best was verse 22, Jesus' answer to Peter about John: Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."

A question to consider:

If you've followed along from chapter one, what are you going to do about this person of Jesus?

I've enjoyed sharing daily thoughts as I've used the Gospel of John for my devotional reading. I'm not sure if anybody read daily and only received a few comments. That's okay. It was a way to keep me focused. I may do something like this again in the really just depends on how I feel that I am being lead by the Spirit.

For Mike, sorry the post comes so late on Sunday (it actually just past the midnight hour and is now Monday). Also, it doesn't appear that I'll be moving on to least not in this forum.

Thanks to all of you for your indulgence through this little experiment.


By the way, the counter that I added a year ago will hit 10,000 sometime today or tomorrow! Unbelievable!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

John 20

He is risen. He is risen, indeed.

John 20 is the discovery of the empty tomb. This is the central event for all of Christendom. Without the resurrection, our faith is in vain. There were stories that were circulated of the disciples stealing the body of Jesus. In fact, the Jewish leaders first placed guards to prevent this from happening and then said that they fell asleep on the job. I've always wondered how the guards could have slept through the moving of the large stone and the taking of the body. Not only does it seem unlikely that they would have fallen asleep, it seems even more unlikely that they would have stayed asleep.

The other gospels tell of many other accounts of Jesus appearing to His followers. Years later Paul tells that because of so many living eyewitnesses that saw the resurrected Jesus, it was impossible to dispute that Jesus had actually risen from the tomb.

Something important that I've learned:

Once again I'm at a loss to say that I've found something here that strikes me as a new lesson. It is always amazing to me that God has loved me so much to take on the guilt of my sin and to take on the judgment for my sin. (Yours too!)

The verse I liked best:

Verse 29--Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

A question to consider:

Have you believed?


John 19, The Crucifixtion

John 19 is the account of The Crucifixion of Jesus. I get frustrated, angry and emotional at reading the account of what took place leading up to His death. I think that we still have leaders today that are more concerned with their own agendas than with individual rights. Pilate wanted to do the right thing but was afraid of the lies of the Jewish leaders.

I don't know if you've seen the movie The Passion of the Christ, but it's worth seeing. This is another chapter that I'm having a difficult time with coming up with answers for the three questions that we've been addressing at the end of each chapter. I will say that the one thing that stands out to me is that Jesus was innocent. Everyone knew that He was innocent. The leaders knew that He had broken no laws. Pilate knew that He had broken no laws. And yet Jesus was crucified.

No favorite verse in this chapter. It's a bit of a downer moment in human history. if you ask me.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

John 18

John 18 is John's account of the arrest of Jesus. There are some different aspects to John's account and I don't know if that's a major point for you or not. It really isn't for me. As I have commented on a previous post, I would expect there to be some differences as a different person reports the same event.

A big thing is the fulfillment of Jesus' prophesy that Peter will deny Him. This sets up the restoration of Peter that comes in the final chapter. It also is a reminder to us that we all have difficulties as we strive to follow Jesus...and that Jesus still forgives and restores.

Another point that should at least be mentioned is that only Rome could sentence a person to death. I know that there were people that were stoned according to The Law, these were basically just ignored by the Romans. It would have been easier if the leaders could have caught Jesus in a stonable offense. As it was, there were so many followers that it would have caused a civil uprising that Rome would have had to put down with military force. By presenting Jesus as a King, the Jewish leaders hoped to have Rome sentence Him to die and avoid the civil rioting.

In the end, Jesus had to die this way. It was a Divine Appointment.

Something important I've learned:

There are times when it really is easier to just deny that we know Jesus. In Matthew's account it says that when the rooster crowed, Peter remembers Jesus' words and wept bitterly. It is how we all feel (or at least should feel) when we recognize that our actions are a denial of Jesus.

The verse I liked best:

I really don't know about this one. I guess the exchange between Jesus and the High Priest is interesting, but I can't really pick out a favorite.

A question to consider:

What situations is it too easy to deny Jesus? When is it hardest to take the stand--"I am one of His followers"?


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wednesday night notes

Well it's 11:30 and Aaron and I are on our way home from the St. Louis Cardinals' baseball game. The good news is that the Cards won! Since it was drizzling to raining approaching downtown (and throughout most of the game) we knew that the teams wouldn't be taking batting practice. This meant that we had time to detour to Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard. It was a last minute decision so I didn't have time to notify Mike. We'll meet at Drewe's at the end of September when we're back for another ballgame.

So I've had my Ted Drewe's, my ballpark hotdog (with grilled onions, sauerkraut and mustard) and a few White Castle double jalapeno cheeseburgers. Now I'm a happy boy. Aaron is driving and we should be home around 2:15 am of so. I'll have to snooze while he drives since it's up at 5 for work.

Life is good----way good.


John 17

Wow. I really hope that you take the time to read John 17.

Jesus takes the time to pray for me. (You too, if you are or will become a believer!)

Verse 20 says, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message..."

I don't really know what to write about something I've learned or a question to consider. But that is definitely my favorite verse in the chapter. It really puts me into an awestruck state of mind to think that Jesus prays for me. Jesus wants us to know that He prays for us. He prayed out loud so that John could hear and record this moment for us. Jesus wants for YOU to know that He is praying for you.

It really is an awesome thought, isn't it?


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

John 16

John 16 is a chapter that is full of promise--some good, some not so very good. Jesus promises that there will be some that will persecute those that believe Him and are His followers. He even says that some will kill you as a favor to God. How often have we seen people do atrocious things in the name of God? Jesus says (verse 3), "They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me." Christians are not without their own dark past: the Crusades, the Inquisition, much antisemitism, etc. But Jesus also gives us the promise of hope.

He tells of a third manifestation of God; the Counselor, the Spirit of Truth. This Counselor will come when Jesus has gone. He will make clear to us the teachings of Jesus. He is one with Jesus and Jesus is one with the Father. They are the same. They are one. They are God. I think that man has made the Doctrine of the Trinity very difficult to understand. God is pretty hard to understand without us making it harder...and that's okay with me. I don't really want a God that I can fully understand. If I can wrap this feeble and finite mind around an infinite God...well that wouldn't be much of a God, would it?

Something important I've learned:

We should not be surprised at spiritual battles that we face. Nor should we be surprised at social battles that we face because of our spiritual beliefs. Jesus told us plainly that these persecutions would come and some would come in the name of God.

The verse I liked best:

The last verse in the chapter: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

A question to consider:

When you are troubled, where do you turn to find peace?


Monday, August 18, 2008

A couple of Notes & John 15

We all have tough weeks; weeks that seem to interfere with our jobs and with the things that we want to do. I think that it could be true that pastors get a few more of those weeks that the rest of us. Last week was one of those weeks for my pastor. Yesterday morning he asked me if I had a message that I could preach for the evening service. Since I was supposed to preach at Hopedale at the beginning of June but was called away, I had a sermon ready--I was just going to have to spend the afternoon going over it and getting it fresh in my mind.

I think that it went well. Sometimes it's hard to tell from the church comments (they love me and I love them). I know that I went a little longer than Pastor Terry usually does (yes, I know all about long winded preachers!) but truthfully could have gone on still. There is just so much information to try to share in such a short period of time. In the end, I always feel like I've finished a workout and somehow feel a bit physically spent. It always feels good to have a time to veg-out and relax after preaching.

It was a good Sunday.


I watched the Rick Warren forum with Senators McCain and Obama this weekend. I didn't see all of the Obama segment. From what I saw, I was surprised that McCain seemed to handle the questions better that Obama. I realize that being in a baptist church is somewhat hostile territory for many of the political stances that Obama has and that may have been apart of it. It was obvious that he was choosing words carefully. If you haven't seen it, it may air again or I'm sure that it is stored on the 'net somewhere--maybe


John 15

I used to have a real problem with people that would tell me that they talk (pray) to Jesus just like He was their friend. I always wanted to yell at them, "He's not your friend. He is your Lord!" I never did yell at them--it was a personal judgment (and a personal problem). Then, all of a sudden, this verse jumps up and yells at me:

Verse 15 "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

If I can change the order today, I'll use that as the verse I liked best.

Wow! I am a friend of Jesus! Talk about your name dropping! "Oh Jesus--yeah, He's a friend of mine!" Or what about the other way? When he Accuser comes before the Father with your name on his lips and Jesus (sitting at the right hand) says, "Now wait a minute. John Hill happens to be a friend of mine!" How cool is that?!

Something important I've learned:

Jesus truly wants for us to know what He knows and to understand His teachings. I don't think that we have taken Jesus serious when it comes to knowing the things that He has taught us. I really believe that we are way more concerned with the things that we want than we are with the things that God wants for us.

A question to consider:

Are you a friend of Jesus?


Saturday, August 16, 2008

John 14

John 14 has some of my favorite verses. Jesus is telling his disciples that He will prepare a place for them. He tells them that those that love Him will obey his teachings. Jesus also teaches that the only way to the Father is through Jesus. (verse 6) Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

I know that many find this statement to be offensive, exclusionary and intolerant. I just find it to be what Jesus taught. Because I believe that Jesus is who he claims to be, I accept this as a teaching of Jesus. Jesus didn't mean for it to offend anybody. He was just stating the truth.

Something important I've learned:

Jesus tells us that the way for us to show our love for Him is to follow His teachings.

The verse I liked best:

Verse 23: Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

A question to consider:

If Jesus says that we demonstrate our love for Him by obeying His teachings; are we studying and teaching what Jesus taught? How can we demonstrate our love for Him if we don't know what He taught?


Friday, August 15, 2008

John 13

While there is much in John 13, the thing that stands out the most for me is the role of the servant that Jesus takes.

We often think that we are above doing certain tasks that are menial. We enjoy doing high profile work but not that which may go unnoticed. Jesus takes the role given to the lowest servant in the house. He washes the feet of the disciples. Maybe this is some more of that "last will be first" teaching. In any case, this is hardly the role for the Messiah!

Something important that I've learned:

I need to examine my own motives in Kingdom service. I know that I often find myself in leadership roles and doing noticeable ministry. Is this the nature of my calling or is is more the nature of wanting attention? How can I imitate Jesus as a Servant?

The verse I liked best:

Verse 14-16: " Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master..."

A question to consider:

This chapter has stuff about Judas' betrayal and Peter's denial and I'm caught up in the servanthood of Jesus. I think that a big part of being a good church leader is being able to be a good Jesus follower. My question is: Are you (Am I) a good follower?


Thursday, August 14, 2008

John 12

In John 12, we see that we are coming to the end of Jesus' life. There are many more lessons to be learned and we are just passed the half way mark in the Gospel of John. Now John really begins to tie the prophecies to the Messiah--to Jesus. Chapter 12 begins the last week of Jesus life.

Jesus begins to tell his followers that the time is near. He tells them of the type of death he will face...even though they aren't sure of what He is talking about. They still don't understand that the Messiah is delivering a Heavenly Kingdom, not an earthly one.

Something important I've learned:

It's hard for me to look at this chapter and pick out one important thing that I've learned. I guess the thing that strikes me the most is the prophesies that were fulfilled in Jesus. That is a part of the apologetics that I've been working on. It's really too much for this post and was a sermon that I preached back in June. More on that another time.

The verse I liked best:

Verse 16--At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

This reminds me that our own minds often miss what is right before our eyes. It was only after the Holy Spirit came into them that they were able to remember and make the connection between what happened and the Old Testament prophesies.

A question to consider:

Verses 42 -43 say--Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

Are there times that we are more interested in what people will think about us that we are about what God thinks? Are we more interested in the praise of men than the praise of God?


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

John 11

John 11 is the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It is a good story and one you should read. In it you see that Jesus is compassionate. You see that he grieves over the loss of a close friend--even knowing what was about to take place. I want to encourage you to read the story and look at the interaction between Jesus and the sisters of Lazarus. Listen to the promises that Jesus says are coming for the believers. However, the things that I want to talk about today come later in the chapter and deal with the reaction of the Jewish leaders.

Something important I've learned:

We often mistake our political and/or social desires for what is best for everybody. The Jewish leaders were more concerned with how Rome might react to the coming of God's Anointed One than they were about the thought that this might be the true Messiah. If Rome decided to take away many of the privileges that they had given the Jews, the leaders would lose their power. What I see here is that we haven't changed too much. It would appear that our religious leaders today are still more concerned about politics and social issues that about sharing the love of God and His wonderful plan of salvation. A politician with views that differ from our own gets way more attention and effort to put them out of office than to share God's love with them (or with the neighbor across the street for that matter).
What is our agenda anyway? Is it to take over the government and make it a government run by a bunch of religious radicals; or to work in the service of our God and King to bring more lost sheep (see yesterday's post) into the fold?

The verse I liked best:

Verse 48--"If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."

A question to consider:

How often does our "right thinking" agenda get in the way of doing God's work?


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

John 10

John 10

Okay, so this is probably one of those chapters that is the reason why I've been slow to embrace the Gospel of John. I know that this "Good Shepherd" analogy probably had a lot more meaning to people that tended sheep and relied on them for food and clothing. I don't know anything about sheep and so for this to have any real meaning to me, first I'm going to have to learn something about sheep. Fortunately I've had more than a few pastors and preachers that have studied a bit about sheep and shepherds. Still, they may have studied sheep and may know something about sheep, but they don't really know sheep. Maybe if Jesus had been a cowboy and talked about horses...(reminds me of this past post).

Something important that I've learned:

Even some of them didn't get the picture--and they knew way more about sheep than I do!
Verse 6--Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.

Jesus said that the reason they didn't understand was because they were from outside the fold.

The verse I liked best:

Verse 16--I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

This is a verse of hope for all of us. Jesus is saying that I am not just the Messiah of Israel, I am the Messiah of God and I am for all of the world.

A question to consider:

If Jesus had come to your community in the 21st century, what occupational example do you think He would have used instead of a shepherd and why?


Monday, August 11, 2008

Back to Work and John 9

Well as hard as it is for me to believe, I'm back to work! Thanks to our Air Traffic Manager's (ATM) diligence in calling the Flight Surgeon (sounds like he operates while in an airplane) I was reinstated as a medically qualified controller today. I had to recertify on all positions since I'd been off work for more than a month. Fortunately after more than 16 years (16 years, 7 months, 4 days leaving just 3 years, 4 months and 27 days to be eligible for retirement!) I still remembered how to talk to planes and am now back on the schedule.

(Bilbo I hope you feel better about flying now.)

John 9

John 9 tells another story of Jesus healing on the Sabbath. There are a couple of things that I like in this story. I like when Jesus was asked who sinned that the man is blind. It turns out that not every bad thing that happens to us is a judgment from God. In this case, Jesus said this was to glorify God.

Something important I've learned:

Some lessons are so simple that we tend to overlook them. In verse 24, the leaders criticize Jesus as a sinner. The man responds by simply saying, "...I was blind but now I see!"

The verse I liked best:

Verse 27 really got the leaders that had been questioning the healed man. I'm sure that he must have thought that their continued interest in the healing was very positive in nature. And so... He answered, "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?"

A question to consider:

The final verses of the chapter say, The man answered, "Now that is remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."

To this they replied, "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!" And they threw him out.

Have you ever felt so self-righteous or been so sure of yourself that you were unwilling to listen to another point of view? Has your sight (knowledge) ever been more of a hindrance than a help?


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Just stuff

It's almost midnight and 8/10 is coming to an end. Sometime tomorrow the Cluster Map will archive all of the information from the past year. It shows 10,323 hits since I put it up a year ago. The counter at the bottom of the right column shows just less than 9,450 hits. I set the lesser counter to only count an IP address once every 6 hours. I also know that there are several that subscribe via RSS feed or Google Reader or something else. I don't think that these are counted by either of these counters.

I know that I don't get near the hits that some of the blogs that I read get, but I get far more than I ever believed that I would. In any case, it's been fun to watch the totals climb.

I should be back to moving airplanes sometime this week--maybe as early as tomorrow. The Regional Flight Surgeon should have received all of the information that they need last Friday. Of course it could also take another week or so for them to allow me back on the boards. Until then I'll just be bored!

I'm guessing that it will most likely be evening before I post the Gospel of John posts when I'm on day schedules like tomorrow. I may post in the morning or on a break from work. We'll see.
Hope you all have a great week!


John 8

John 8 begins with the familiar story of the adulteress brought before Jesus. From there, it gets a little bit hard to follow.

The Pharisees question the validity of Jesus' testimony and Jesus defends His testimony. Jesus talks about His Father and they ask about His father. They say that they are children of Abraham and Jesus says that they certainly don't act like children of Abraham. Here Jesus implies that they are children of the devil, later He comes right out and says it. They get their insults in by saying, "We are not illegitimate children..." This is an insult because they all know the story of His birth and this is why they question Jesus about who his father is.

Towards the end of the chapter, Jesus tells them that Abraham rejoiced at his day. Their response is the equivalent of, "Yeah, right. You've seen Abraham!" Jesus answers with,"Before Abraham was, I am."

Jesus didn't say, "I was." The "I am" comes from Moses' encounter with God when Moses asked who he should say sent him and God responded, "I am who I am. Tell them I AM sent you."

At this blasphemy, the Jews sought to stone Jesus.

Something important I've learned:

Here is where Jesus brings to life the teaching that you will be judged by the standard with which you judge others.

The verse I liked best:

verses 31-32 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

A question to consider:

How do you want to be judged? How do you judge others?


Saturday, August 09, 2008

John 7

As always, in John 7 there is just too much to cover in one blog or one sermon. Here are my answers to the three questions.

Something important I've learned:

Sometimes too much knowledge can be a hindrance to finding the truth. Just as the Pharisees had a preconceived idea about their Messiah that didn't fit with Jesus, we often have ideas and beliefs that need to be examined from time to time. I have to accept challenges to my faith with an open mind and check them out in order to be sure of the truth. As Bilbo is fond of saying, "Don't let anyone else do your thinking for you."

The verse I liked best:

Verses 12-13: Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, "He is a good man."

Others replied, "No, he deceives the people." But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews.

and verses 40-41: On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet."

Others said, "He is the Christ."

It reminds me of what C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:

“I am trying to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claims to be God.’ This is the one thing that we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

A question to consider:

Who is Jesus to you?


Friday, August 08, 2008

John 6

I have to admit that there are parts of John 6 that are pretty freaky if you take them literally.
I teacher and friend of mine says that we should interpret the Bible literally until it makes no sense to do it that way...then interpret it figuratively.

Obviously it makes no sense that we are all to actually eat the flesh of Jesus and drink His blood. So what is the figurative interpretation? I'm no Bible scholar (you've probably already figured that out), so I can only share what this means to me. You may have your own ideas.

I'll get to those thoughts in a moment. First I want to talk briefly about the miracles we see at the beginning of the chapter. I believe that miracles are used by God to bring glory to Him (period). They are not rewards to those that pray or favors that are bestowed on His children. I believe that miracles have no other possible explanation than supernatural intervention. If one can say that it is possible that medicine was responsible for a cured person (no matter how unlikely)...not a miracle. While I believe that life is a product of Divine intervention, babies being born is a part of our natural world and therefore...not a miracle. Even in the expanding universe (the cosmos) much of what we know is explained in natural science. Almost all of it can be explained in science...but that's fodder for another post.

In this case, clearly the miracles are to reveal that Jesus is from heaven. He is the Messiah. He is One with the Father. He is our source (bread) of Life. When there is no natural explanation we can (as many atheists have done) say that it couldn't have happened that way or we can chose to believe that it is possible that a force outside of the natural world (supernatural) is responsible. The followers of Jesus were eye witnesses to the miracles. They couldn't say that it didn't happen that way...they saw it happen that way and knew that only God could have brought this about.

Jesus uses these miracles to show the power and glory of God; as a testimony of who He is. The people see the miracles and then ask for a sign! Even Jesus finds this incredible. He basically says, "You're not here because of God. You're following me around because you think that you're going to get a free meal!" He tells that that even though they've seen with their eyes they still don't believe in their hearts.

Let's get to the three study questions.

Something important I've learned:

It's my life's job to do the will of God; to believe in Jesus.
Verses 28 and 29 say: Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"

Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

The verse I liked best:

Verse 35: Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

Jesus satisfies all of our needs.

A question to consider:

Have we come looking for God's supernatural handouts? Or do we come because we just want to see God?

To go back briefly to the thoughts that I said I'd get to in a moment...

I believe that Jesus is the source of life. I believe that He is the source of our physical life and the source of our spiritual life. To the Jew of the day, bread was the staple food. It was the food of life. When Jesus said I am the bread of life, He was saying that you need me to live. It is still true today. Jesus doesn't expect you to eat flesh or drink blood. He expects us to believe in the One sent from heaven; to embrace His life (eat this bread); to accept His sacrifice (drink this blood); and to follow His teachings.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

John 5

If there is a prevailing theme in the fifth chapter of John it is that the Law is a harsh judge.

Something important I've learned:

The religious leaders of the day have chosen, not only to judge by the Law, but to add to the Law. We still have religious leaders that are more concerned with legalism than they are with love. It is much easier to judge others and condemn them for their behavior than to embrace them with the love of God. The Pharisees would rather have had Jesus leave a crippled man crippled than to heal him on the Sabbath. I wonder if they would have said anything if he would have left his bed behind and just walked. At first they were targeting the man for carrying his bed on the Sabbath. But when they found out that Jesus had healed him on the Sabbath, they went after Jesus for performing this act of compassion on the Sabbath. (Incidentally, this is one of the reasons Jewish leaders still claim that Jesus couldn't be the Messiah--because He violated the Law regarding the Sabbath.)

The verse I liked best:

verse 45
"But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set."

Jesus says that he is not the accuser, it is the Law (Moses) that accuses them. Since they chose to judge others by the Law, they would be judged by the Law. The whole problem in being judge by the Law is that we are all guilty.

Have you ever told a lie? Even just a little one? You're guilty.
Have you ever wanted something that belonged to someone else? Guilty?

A question to consider:

When you die--should you find yourself at the Pearly Gates and God asks, "Why should I allow you into My heaven?"--how will you answer?

I was a good person. (compared to who?)
I always followed your commands.
I've accepted your gift of grace by faith in Jesus.
Or maybe you have your own answer...


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

One Man That Changed the World

Here are two articles written about a man that changed the world. While many in our Western World may say that our lives were unchanged as the communism of the past fell, I would say that it has changed beyond what we can imagine.

His name was Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He died last weekend at the age of 89. I'll be adding a couple of his books to my "need to read" list.

Here are the links to the articles. Please do yourself the favor of reading them.

Solzhenitsyn: prophet of truth

Alexander Who?


John 4

John 4

The fourth chapter of John is an interesting study. The predominant story is of Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman at a well.

There have been a number of scholars and movements that have made the claim that Jesus never actually claimed to be the Messiah. Here, we not only see that Jesus does say that He is the Messiah, we see that Jesus makes the claim to a very unlikely person--a woman, and a woman of poor reputation at that.

Paul writes (1 Cor 1:27-29):

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

It always amazes me that Jesus is glorified in the acts and works of simple people and simple things. I never would have imagined that I would be using simple parlor tricks to entertain and teach people about God's love for us; or that I would stand and preach the Word or write about Jesus in a blog read around the globe.

Something important I've learned:

People really do turn to Jesus because of the things that we say and do. (verse 39)
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did."

The verse I liked best:

(verse 42)
They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."

After we have come to experience Him, we believe because of the nature of God. We believe because we know Him, not because we know about Him.

A question to consider:

Why are we not telling people what we know about Jesus?


Side note: My comment was not posted on the Fast Lane. No big surprise here!

The Oldest Celebrity in the World

Paris responds to McCain's ad comparing Sen. Obama to Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears. Funny.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I'm in Trouble Now!

I just read the Official Blog of the US Secretary of Transportation. Although I left a comment, it is yet to be seen if it will be posted or if I'll hear anything about it.

In essence I said that the FAA isn't going to listen to the Controllers much less some citizen's group. I mentioned that there have been too many news stories of FAA corruption when it comes to the airlines that the FAA is supposed to be inspecting and regulating that one has to believe that any plan that the FAA comes up with is most likely to have airline revenues in mind. I seldom use an alias and figure to endure any consequences that come my way for what I've said. Besides, I figure that any amateur computer geek can find the IP address of this computer and know that I wrote the offending comments. Surely the FAA has somebody (probably under contract) that could figure it out.


John 3

John 3

Something important I've learned:

It is not our place to be the judge of the world. Even Jesus came not to condemn but to save.

The verse I liked best:

Although John 3:16 is probably the most memorized verse in the Bible, I think that I like verse 17 better. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

A question to consider:

If Jesus said that He didn't come to condemn, and that we are to love our neighbor and that we will be judged by the standard that we use to judge others; why do we use judgment and condemnation as a motivator to turn people to God instead of love? Is the fear of darkness a greater motivator that simply shining the Light?

A few other things that I noticed:

Nicodemus came to Jesus in secret. We still do this today. We are still more worried about how people will perceive us that we are about how God sees us.

Also, I really like the picture that we see when we look to the Old Testament story of Moses and the snake. The story is found in Numbers 21:4-9.

The Bronze Snake
They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!"

Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people.

The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

I wonder how many Israelites thought that it was stupid to look at the snake to be saved from death? The act of looking at the snake wasn't what saved them. It was the act of obedience; trusting that God would save them if they would follow His commands. The cross gives us the same choice. The difference is that the Israelites knew when they had been bitten. They knew what they were in for and they knew that they needed to be saved. We, on the other hand, can be quite comfortable in living a life apart from God. We can easily convince ourselves that we have no need for a Savior and we don't need to look to the cross.

I think that there may be a sermon in there!


Monday, August 04, 2008

I'm Still Awake & John 2

Well it is now the evening after the dreaded wakefulness test and I am still awake and going strong. It seems to be a pretty bogus test, designed to make you fail. First of all, who stops four times during the work day, goes into a dark, quiet room and lays in bed for forty minutes with the intention of staying awake? Secondly, even though there is a coffee pot in each of the operating areas at work and soda machines or refrigerators with caffeinated drinks that are consumed through out the day, for this day--no caffeine once you arrive at the testing site! (I didn't know that and brought a Coke Zero with me.) All of this makes for something that is very foreign to the typical work day and yet this is the test used to determine if I can stay awake enough to do my job. As a matter of fact, the FAA has determined that you can't even nap on your break. That's right. You can play video games on a computer, surf the net, read a book, play cards, watch soap operas on TV or any other meaningless thing...just don't close your eyes to rest for a few moments before going back to work!

Of course now that I've given them proper scientific documentation, I think that I should be able to go into a dark quiet room, close the door and recline uninterrupted for my break. Everybody knows that I can do this without falling asleep. I'm just taking a relaxing break!

Anyways, I passed the test today. Tomorrow the results will be at my doctor's office. I'll go by to make sure that they have a signed release and the right address to send the information and then we'll see how long it takes the medical staff at the regional office to allow me to go back to work. My bet is two weeks.


For anyone following along in the Gospel of John...

John 2

Something important I've learned:

You can trust the character (the nature) of Jesus.

The verse I liked best:

Verses 3-5 When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come."

His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

His mother does not tell Jesus what to do and yet knows that He will take care of the situation. She indicates this when she tells the servants to obey Him.

A question to consider:

Do I trust the character of Jesus enough to know that He is in control and enough to do whatever he tells me?

How about you?


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Now That's Funny

Sen. John McCain might want to check his donor list before he goes placing one of their daughters in an ad meant to belittle his opponent. Apparently the parents of Paris Hilton are not happy with the campaign the compares Sen. Obama to their daughter.

Here's an article that says mom doesn't agree with the Senator's sense of humor.


According to John

A short while back I began a daily devotion going through the Gospel of John. As it sometimes happens, daily life interrupts and the best of intentions get cast to the side. I doubt that my daily devotions will turn into daily posts, but some probably will. It will help me to be more consistent and also help me to better fix in my own mind the lessons from John's writing.

The devotion is set up to read a chapter each day. It then asks three questions about what you've just read. Feel free to read along with me.

The questions are:

Something important I've learned:

The verse I liked best:

A question to consider:

John Chapter 1

Something important I've learned:

Though this is not something new, it is always good to be reminded that we are given the right to become children of God by our belief in Jesus (verse 12).

The verse I liked best:

I considered many verses before actually choosing a favorite. In the end it was one that spoke to me on a more personal level. I know that the He in verse 8 refers to John the Baptist, not John the evangelist (me), but just the same: (verse 8) He himself was not the light; he (John) came only as a witness to the light.
It reminds me of my call to preach; to bear witness to Jesus.

Another favorite would be verse 29.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

This is a significant statement because in the Old Testament practice, the blood of the Sacrificial Lamb was offered as an atonement for the sins of the people. The word translated to atonement means to cover over. John's statement did not say that this lamb would make an atonement (or cover over the sin of the world) but that the Lamb of God would take away the sin of the world.

A question to consider:

In verses 40-45 we find Andrew and Philip quickly telling their family and friends about finding the Messiah. My question would be--Have you (I) told anybody about Jesus recently?


The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
John 1:5

Friday, August 01, 2008

Mechanically Challenged

Everybody that knows me knows that I am mechanically challenged. I am much more comfortable with a wand in hand than a wrench or screw driver. (and about as effective!) But even I should be able to change a headlight on a car with no problems, right?


The geniuses the designed my 1997 Chrysler LHS (now totaled from hail damage) make it so that you have to have an engineering degree to change the headlamps. To simply change the headlights, one has to remove a large rubber cover that spans the width of the car (eight screws), the head lamp assemblies (two bolts each) and then you can finally get at the light bulbs ($19/pair for the medium quality) to replace them. Then, of course, the entire process is reversed to re-assemble the car into the pre-tragedy condition. I'm glad that I had the owner's manual to help figure it all out. It would have been much easier if my friend CW was close by to help with auto repair stuff.

I grew up working at a gas station and know that it is somebody's job to hide the hood release from owners and mechanics. Today's gas tanks are relatively easy to find (you just have to remember which side of the vehicle it's on). I remember them behind license plates and tail light assemblies! But hiding the hood release or gas tank is a harmless prank compared to making something so complicated that you have to take your car to the shop (at about $65/hr) for a simple maintenance item. That's just plain mean. Whatever happened to simplicity?

I'm definitely becoming more curmudgeonly, aren't I?

Where is the kind hearted fellow from the last post? See what a little bit of auto repair can do. It can make mumbling idiots and mean guys out of otherwise sane and stable people. (that's an opening for Mike)