Monthly Archives: May 2012

Collision versus Impact

A collision occurs when one object bumps into another, either on purpose or by accident. The result of a collision—the amount of damage done—is measured by the impact of one or both objects. We are most familiar with automobile collisions. Today, the impact of even the slightest collision can cause tremendous damage and cost thousands to repair.

A couple of years ago, I backed into a two by two inch steel post with the rear bumper of my truck. I was just barely moving and yet the impact of that collision destroyed my bumper and pushed it through the rear quarter panel of the truck. The cost to repair it was almost $1,500.00. I can’t imagine what might have happened if I had been going faster than a couple miles an hour. The impact of the pole had a real impact on both my truck and my pocket book.

In football, certain players are known as impact players. This means when that player collides with another, things always happen. It could mean a fumble occurs, an interception is made, a long pass is caught, a great run is made, a kick is blocked, or a touchdown is scored. That player usually affects the ultimate result of the game.

We cannot stop the collisions of life. It is a part of living in this world. But, when that collision is with God, we can make the most out of the impact. From time to time, every one of us will run head long into God. Those moments are called defining moments. These collisions are inevitable, but if we learn to recognize and maximize those moments, the impact will always be positive.

God never changes, but every person he touches is changed, and his desire is to make all of us impact players in the world in which we live. That may mean in your family, your work, your neighborhood, or your church.  Impact players control the collisions they are involved in. They choose the moments, the places, and the amount of damage they will inflict. They are never out of control, but fully in control. Every Christian is supposed to be under the control of the Holy Spirit, but too often, instead being impact players, we are like my truck (out of control) hitting the pole.

God has chosen to use you and me. Why? I’m not totally sure but I have an inkling that it has to do with using the moronic things of this world to confuse the wise (1 Cor. 1:18-25). I’m pretty sure that’s why he’s chosen me, but you must decide on his reason for using you. The wonderful thing about all this is that we get to partner with him in this grand endeavor. We really do have a choice. We can be under control of his Spirit and be impact players. Or, we can be out of control and sustain great damage at every turn like my truck.

It all comes down to collision versus impact. So…which one will you choose? A damaged life or a life of destiny—that’s really the choice.

Time for Some R&R

From time to time we all need a little R&R (rest and relaxation). All work and no play makes Jack/Jill (or Bill, or Sue, or you) a dull boy/girl, or so the saying goes. That saying is very, very true. Weariness and fatigue, whether its physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual, diminishes our strength and deafens our ability to hear God speak. If we can’t hear God clearly or don’t have enough strength to obey him when he speaks, we are in trouble.

God created rest and he even accessed it after Creation. He worked, according to Scripture, six days and rested on the seventh. In fact, He is still at rest and invites each of us to enter that rest with him. His pattern is to be our pattern. That’s why he created a sabbath rest. Many argue that this must be the seventh day (Saturday or Sunday depending on your particular religious label), but that is an argument from the letter or the Law, not an argument for the principle of the Law. Jesus confronted the religious nit-pickers of his day and in very plain words declared that we were not created for the sabbath, but rather the sabbath was created for us. He was huge on the principles, but not the specific letters this or that group preferred.

We all need some time to re-connect with God each week. We were never meant to work 24-7-365 days a year. And from time to time, we need a few sabbaths bound together in what we commonly call a vacation. We all need to find that place where “nobody knows our name and no one knows we came.” We need a little time to unplug from the computer, the cell phone, and all the important people who clamor for our attention, so that we can rest our body, soul, and spirit. Vacations are good and necessary things. A vacation is nothing more than a little time away from the things that suck the life out of us. That might be a few hours in the back yard with a glass of ice tea and magazine. It might be a day on the lake with the family. It might be a thirty minute walk around the neighborhood. It might even be a week or two at a national park or resort.

From time to time, Jesus pulled away from the pressure of ministry and the demands of the people around him. He would often slip into the wilderness or up a mountain to talk all alone with his heavenly Father. As you read the New Testament, it is amazing how a little R&R empowered our Lord. If he needed it, we can be certain that we do even more so.

Today might be a good time to assess the fuel in your tank. Are you running on fumes or coasting because the tank is dry? If so, take some time for yourself and rest. I know all the excuses, but none of them will matter if you’re dead.  Weariness and stress are major contributors to sickness and disease. And…as you well know–sickness and disease are the number one killers of human beings. In fact, just think about this for a moment, most of those things you think no one can do but you will be done by someone else fifteen minutes after you stop breathing. So–take a chill pill and relax a  little. You and I are not as important as we think.

 

Reality Check

This past Sunday afternoon, I was speeding along I-40 just east of Knoxville like the proverbial bat of… Well, perhaps that’s not a good illustration after all. Let’s just say I was tooling along with the traffic—not leading the pack, but not lagging so far behind that I couldn’t see the pace car. Nothing clears my head and mellows me out faster than a long drive with good music. I was, as they say, chilling.

All of a sudden, I hit a big curve on the interstate and it shook me out of my chilled mellow state of mind. If you’re familiar with I-40 as it enters North Carolina, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Curves are not the norm on the interstates I frequent, so I sat up a little straighter, gripped the steering while a bit tighter, and pressed the brake a lot harder.

In hindsight (which by the way is always 20/20), I am now convinced God put that curve in I-40 just for me. Otherwise I would have pressed the accelerator down even harder and raced onward toward my destination. Instead, as I slowed down, I looked around and then up…and up…and up. Did I say I looked up? Wow! The deep green hue of the mountains set against that deep blue sky was indescribable—sort of like a scenic banquet table for the eyes and mind. Here I was, several miles into the Blue Ridge Mountains and I hadn’t even noticed it.

That curve was God’s reality check for me to slow down and look at the countryside I was careening through. Too often, it’s all about the destination—the end result. You know what I mean. “I can’t wait till I get to _____________ ” (fill in the blank with your appropriate destination). It is so easy to allow the torrid pace of life and all that clutter we think is so indispensable to rob us of the pleasure of our journey. The destination can’t be reached unless the journey is taken. So, why not slow down a little and enjoy the journey. we can take those curves on two wheels if you want, but we will likely miss those special moments God has placed along our path.

Destination Israel: The Message of Herod’s Aqueduct (Part 20)

Herod's Aqueduct

Herod the Great was an amazing builder and the ruins of much of what he built twenty one centuries ago still remains. At Caesarea Maritima (Caesarea by the sea), he enlarged and renovated a city and built a palace, a forty acre harbor on the Mediterranean, a 3,500 seat theater, and an aqueduct that was capable of supplying water for a population of several hundred thousand people.

Water is essential for life. It really doesn’t matter how luxurious or stunning a city is, if it does not have a sustainable water supply it soon becomes a ghost town There are miles and miles of water on the western front door of Caesarea Maritima, but the problem is, it’s the Mediterranean Sea—striking to look at, filled with a myriad of seafood, but salty and undrinkable. The solution for Herod was simple: build an aqueduct and bring the water to his capital city.

Herod used Roman technology and brought the fresh water from springs of Shummi located on the southern side of Mount Carmel, ten miles to the north of Caesarea Maritima. Herod achieved this amazing feat around 20 BC. The Roman arches supported a terracotta pipe (red clay) so exquisitely graded that the water did not wear away the pipe as it flowed down from the springs to the city on the sea.

Aqueducts are conduits that carry fresh water. Much of the water in Israel came from cisterns (large stone or concrete storage containers) where water was caught after a rainstorm and conserved for later use. If a person had their choice in ancient times, they preferred fresh water over the water taken from cisterns, but often this stale water was all that was available.

Jesus referred to himself as the Water of Life. The Holy Spirit is described as a river of living water flowing up and out like an artesian spring. We belong to Jesus and the Holy Spirit resides within us, therefore we could be compared to an aqueduct. We don’t produce the water, but we are conduits through which the Living Water is to flow freely to those who are dying for a drink of life. But…you and I get to choose—we can be cisterns and keep all the grace to ourselves and like be like the Dead Sea—rich and lifeless. Or, we can be aqueducts of God’s grace and the richness of his life will spring up everywhere we go.

Today, a lonely aqueduct running southward along the Mediterranean Sea reminds us of our awesome privilege and incredible responsibility to give freely of what we have so freely received. This is the message of Herod’s Aqueduct.

Destination Israel: The Statement of Peter’s House (Part 18)

Peter's House

In the Galilean city of Capernaum, among its ancient ruins, sits a very, very special house. This house is the 1st century home of the apostle Peter. Today there is a Catholic Franciscan Church built on pillars above the house and the inside of the home can be viewed from inside the church through a clear pexi-glass floor.

During the initial excavations by the Franciscans, a sacra insula (i.e. holy insula—a block of homes built around a common courtyard) was found, and in one of those houses Peter’s name was discovered with other graffiti inscribed on the wall. The sacra insula also served as one of the earliest 1st century Christian churches and a fish symbol was also found near one of the doorposts. Later in the 5th century AD, the insula was enlarged due to the crowds that worshiped here. This was one of the first house churches and has been a sacred site since early in the 1st century.

Capernaum was Peter’s home town. It was from this location on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee that he and the sons of Zebedee (James and John) ran their fishing business. Jesus visited Peter’s home and healed his mother-in-law on this site.

Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Their reply was one of the prophets. Then he asked, “Who do you say I am?” Peter’s reply is one of prophetic faith in action, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter could only have known that through a direct revelation from God, and Jesus acknowledged that.

Then Jesus made that famous statement: “Peter (petros = small rock) on this rock (petra = bedrock) I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus was not saying he would build his church on Peter (though he was an essential part of the early church), but rather on Peter’s great confession faith. That’s exactly what happened, and the testimony of Peter’s house is that Peter believed it and established a local body of Christ (the church) that worshiped where he lived. James (the brother of Jesus) would later write, “Faith without works is dead.” That is if you say you have faith then act on it. Peter acted on it and today we have in the ruins of Capernaum just one example of his faith.

Do you have faith in Jesus? If you do, then tell share it with someone who doesn’t. Put your faith in action.

Destination Israel: The Witness of the Wailing Wall (Part 18)

The Wailing Wall

The Wailing Wall located on the western side of the Temple Mount is the only surviving remnant of the Temple destroyed by Titus in 70 AD. Due to this, it is the most significant holy site for the Jewish people. The Temple was once the center of Jewish life, both secular and religion, but after its destruction, that unifying element was gone. Today, the Temple Mount is home to the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque and is regulated and controlled by the Muslim community in Jerusalem. The Jewish people do not go onto the Temple Mount due to the absolute holiness of this site and their reverence for it. Thus the Wailing Wall is the site devout Jews go to pray.

The Wailing Wall is divided into two sections for prayer, one for men and the other for women. This same custom has been observed since the first Tabernacle with a separation between the Court of the Men and the Court of the Women. Today, the Court of the Men is located next to the oldest part of the ancient wall hidden underneath an opening to the left of the Wailing Wall that leads back into a cave-like room. Here, out of the sight of camera flashing tourists, you will find the elderly Hasidic Jewish men dressed in black with long white beards rhythmically rocking back and forth chanting prayers from their Hebrew prayer books.

Back on the outside, you will notice thousands of tiny notes rolled up

Prayer Requests in the Wall

and stuck in the Wailing Wall. It is the custom of those who visit the Wall to place their written prayer requests in the wall, believing this is as close to God as a human being can get. The witness of the Wailing Wall is not its proximity to God, but rather it is a powerful place of prayer. Not because it’s as close to God as you can get, but by the sheer number of prayers offered there each day for the peace of Jerusalem and the petition for the Messiah’s return. Both Jews and Gentiles flock to here to pray—pilgrims come from around the world with a desire to petition and intercede at the Wailing Wall.

It struck me while I was there how sacred this place really is when I noticed a sign on a pole as I passed through the check point and the metal detectors. This sign declared: The Divine Presence Rests Here—Please Be Reverent. This conviction comes from the Jewish belief that the presence of God rested in the Temple deep within the Holy of Holies behind the veil over the Mercy Seat. With the Temple destroyed—the Jewish people believe God’s presence still rests here in this area of the Wailing Wall in a special way. God is there—not because of these ancient stones—but because of the incense of the intercession that arises from this place each day.

One day soon, God will answer the countless prayers for the Prince of Peace—the Messiah to return (this will not be His first visit as many who pray there believe—it is indeed His return). The eastern skies will open on that day—maybe today—and Jesus will descend onto the Mount of Olive and the mountain will split and He will walk across the Kidron Valley through the Eastern Gate and enter the Temple Mount at His victorious return. Muslim cemeteries and mosques won’t be able to keep Him away. On that great day, nothing will keep Jesus from His divine destination.

So, today as you pray—join the millions who pray daily for the peace of Jerusalem and the return of the Messiah, and you will be just as close to God as those pilgrims who are placing their notes in the Wailing Wall.

Destination Israel: The Genuine Savior at the Pool of Bethesda (Part 17)

The Pool of Bethesda lies in ruins today, but in Jesus’ day it was quite a site to behold and the place to visit if you were sick. John describes it as a pool in Jerusalem near the Sheep’s Gate that had five porticoes or covered colonnades with rushing water moving through it. In the 8th century BC a dam had been built across the Beth Zeta Valley to provide a reservoir to catch and hold the rain water and provide a steady stream of water into Jerusalem. It is mentioned as the upper pool by Isaiah (36:2).

When the Romans took over they brought their pagan beliefs with them and likely incorporated them around parts of the Pool of Bethesda. Many historians believe this site was also an asclepieion (a healing place) where a temple to the god Asclepius was located.  Considered the god of healing, Asclepius carried a serpent entwined on a staff (the symbol of medicine today). This god was also worshipped as “soter” or savior. It is likely the Roman soldiers who were quartered in the Fortress Antonio carried on their pagan rituals alongside the Hebrew infirmed at these healing pools.

The name of this pool carries a dual meaning that Jesus would certainly have known. “Beth” means “house of” and “hesda” carries the meaning of mercy or grace, but the word “hesda” could also mean “shame or disgrace.” There was not a lot of grace or mercy extended to the sick by the religious elite of Judaism in the 1st century. They were seen as “unclean” due to their infirmities. Though the Pool of Bethesda was a place of grace where healings did take place—it was also seen as a place of disgrace due to the constant crowds of cripples, paralytics, and invalids who congregated there. They were there awaiting an angel who would come at certain seasons and stir up the waters. The first one in the pool was healed. Sadly, most of those lying around the pool simply could not drag themselves into the water fast enough and were doomed to wait for the next time or the next…or maybe the next.

This is the very place the Grace of God chose to visit and of all days, He did it on a Sabbath. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels reveals that the Sabbath Police seemed to follow Jesus everywhere, waiting and watching so that they could build a case against Him that could be used in their religious kangaroo court. And…they were in attendance that day when He healed the cripple man lying beside the pool. So Jesus stepped up and did not disappoint by healing this poor man.

There at the Pool of Bethesda—the house of grace—the lame man found grace. But—the religious system—both Jewish and pagan—found shame at Bethesda. The true Savior did not need the water or an angel. He did not use the sacred pagan serpents crawling around. He simply spoke and the man was healed. The true Savior—the Son of grace—had come to the house of grace—Bethesda.