The Jesus We Love.

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I was with a group of friends a couple Saturday mornings back, all guys. It’s amazing how the question “Am I good enough” pervades each of our lives. Other ways of stating the same question are “Am I where I’m supposed to be in life? Should I have a different job? Does (insert a name) think well of me?” 

No matter how you phrase it, it boils down to a self esteem issue quite often based on what others think of us, as well as what we think of ourselves.

That’s where Jesus is so important an example to each of us, especially the guys I enjoy meeting with on Saturday mornings, and some other guys on other mornings too for that matter. (It’s easier to do since I’m retired.)

As we had our discussion this morning, my mind went to God the Father’s fantastic estimation and exclamation about Jesus when Jesus was baptized. Heaven opened up and God the Father exclaimed in a loud voice “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11[1]

On top of that, God the Holy Spirit gently came down on Jesus like a dove. Wow. What had Jesus done to deserve all that when He was about thirty years old. 

Scripture (Luke 2) mentions that when Jesus was twelve years old, He loved listening to and asking questions to the teachers in the Temple. He was missing from His parents for three days? What did He eat? Where did He sleep? Apparently, He knew how to care for Himself. I think it’s safe to assume, – I can’t prove it – He had the same inquisitiveness and love of listening to and asking questions of teachers His entire thirty years.

His answer to His parents shows that even at twelve years of age, He knew His calling. And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Luke 2:49 

Whatever He was doing as “His Father’s business” those first thirty years, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit really, really, divinely loved Him and were thrilled with Him, Jesus, God who became fully man through birth. Books could be written on that subject alone. Suffice it to say for purpose of this note, Jesus was fully a man as well as God and God the Father was enthralled with the man, His Son, had become. 

The point I want to make is that even though Jesus lived perfectly, He wasn’t totally perfected as a man until He completed the task His Father gave Him, namely, to rise from the dead. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” John 10:17-18 

This was the command He received from His Father: lay down your life and 2) rise from the dead. That’s gutsy. Because Jesus did it, millions who believed in Him have done the same thing, relying on His promise. Millions more are still willing to do it. I’m sure some of the guys I meet with are willing to do it. 

I remember myself, four years after I returned from Vietnam the thought occurred to me one day, “If I was willing to die for my country, why wouldn’t I be willing to die for Christ?” It was a no-brainer for me. Sure. Why not? (Nonetheless, I struggled for year about in what fashion I was willing to die for Christ. That’s another story, too.) 

The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” Hebrews 5:8-9 [Emphasis added]

I don’t think we appreciate that even though Jesus was perfect, He wasn’t perfected until he fulfilled His role as the author of our salvation by rising from the dead as His Father commanded Him.

So, for all of us that struggle with “Am I good enough”, take Jesus as an example. Throughout His life, by being obedient to His Father, His Father considered Him moment by moment perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect for roughly thirty three years. But Jesus was not considered perfecteduntil He rose from the dead. 

Put another way, for thirty three years, day by day, God the Father considered Jesus,

I’m well pleased with you, Son.

I’m well pleased with you, Son.

I’m well pleased with you, Son.

But even Jesus wasn’t finally perfected as a man until He rose from the dead. He had the courage to believe His Father gave Him the power to rise from the dead. That’s gutsy. We need to believe the same thing. By His loving power with Christ in us, we can rise from the dead.

So, while none of us is always obedient to Christ, remember that when we are, God Our Father is saying about us, “I’m well pleased with you.” When we are disobedient, He is willing to forgive us. And on that day after becoming a servant of all through and like Christ, after having picked up our cross, when we rise from the dead, we too will be perfected by the grace of God, by Christ in whom we believe and who lives in us.

If you don’t believe in Christ, join the crowd who does. Call on Him. You’ll love the challenge, the joy, the victory in Christ. Sometimes you may have more challenge than joy, but when the joy comes, there’s nothing like it and you’ll be so glad believed in Christ .


[1]All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version, Biblegateway.com

Image of Christ’s Resurrection is from the Vatican Museum. Artist Unknown.

Never and Forever

Never and forever. These two words make Christianity very interesting, in fact, amazing. Christ promises to forever love those who believe in him, not just here on earth but in heaven as well. “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” the apostle John tells us in his book, 1 John 4:16. Who can fathom being continually, genuinely loved forever? We’ve never experienced that on earth. And we’ve not yet experienced heaven.

If you are not familiar with Christianity, Christ often portrays Himself in the Bible as the sacrificial lamb who conquers death and sin by dying for us and rising from the dead. In the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, Christ tells us:

“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. … ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 7:17, 21:4

Think on that for a good while: “… for the old order of things has passed away.” Heaven is not at all like earth. There’s no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. None. Ever. Never.

Don’t you think that’s worth investigating for yourself?

One Saturday when I was about 12 years old my dad wanted to take me to a Detroit Tiger’s baseball game. He must have asked me kindly about ten times. For some reason I can’t remember, I took an attitude and stubbornly refused to go. He did not berate me at all for my stubbornness. Eventually he went to the game without me.

As I look back on my refusal now nearly sixty years later and Dad having passed away twenty-nine years ago, I think of the wonderful time I could have had with Dad at the game. I would remember eating a hot dog, tracking the score in the program book, watching my favorite players on the field, sitting next to dad. Fortunately, others times we did go to a game together. They were such good times.

Don’t lose the opportunity to enjoy eternal joy with God. He wants us to realize that although He is the only and all-powerful God, He loves thinking of us as His children and we thinking of Him as our Father.

What have you got to lose? If you think your future is simply annihilation and return to cosmic dust, an eternal life or joy should sound so much more appealing. We don’t simply become cosmic dust. Test God. Take Him up on His offer as He prompted Jeremiah to do. “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13. Search with all your heart.

Mutual Admiration Societies

There’s a 1956 song sung by Teresa Brewer that goes, “We belong to a mutual admiration society, my baby and me.” We all love mutual admiration societies. We want friends that think like we do. We like to laugh together. We enjoy not having our opinions challenged too vociferously.

A few months ago, St. Paul’s words from his first Epistle to the Corinthians came to mind and changed my world. “ And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

There is a faith. There is a hope. Paul was sure faith and hope in Christ is the answer that assures us of life. I sincerely believe that too. But Paul tells me that above faith, above hope, the greatest is love.

In other words, Paul is saying to me, “Phil, if you really have your faith down pat, you will be an example of love to the world. Love is the proof of the genuineness and perfection of your faith.” A deep knowledge of my faith is not the perfection of faith. Love is the perfection of my faith.

If I want people to believe my faith, I’d better sincerely, kindly, openly love them first. Love, introducing people to Christ’s love, not my love, is the proof that my faith is worth living. Christ’s love, not my faith, needs to be first.

Christ exemplified this perfectly. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 Christ loved me while I preferred sin to love.

Christ wants us all to believe in Him but He didn’t just hang with people who believed in Him. He wasn’t looking for a mutual admiration society to the exclusion of others.

Both Matthew and Luke tell us Christ’s enemies called Him a friend of sinners because He dined with sinners so often. But Christ did so to capture their hearts with His love, not because He agreed with their sin.

That’s what I’ve learned. Faith isn’t first about getting people to know faith. Faith is first showing people that my faith in Christ has taught me to love others as unconditionally as Christ did. That’s the greatest and the hardest thing to do.

Christ did not come with a sword to beat us all into submission. Since He is love, He revealed His true self, Love, to everyone. His message was simple. He gives us all a choice. If you want eternal life, true eternal love, believe in Him. For people to believe in Christ, I need to come across as a kind, forgiving, accepting, understanding lover. I am learning we are called to plant the seed of love and let the Holy Spirit nurture their faith.

Love Melts Selfishness

We had a wonderful time with our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren in Texas this summer. One Saturday morning we all took a ride in the hill country and enjoyed the rolling, curving roads through the massive ranches.

The sun was out. The grandchildren were well behaved. The air was pure and the scenery was gorgeous in its own rugged way. The parched soil and rocky terrain makes one wonder how people survived there generations ago.

We stopped on a curve of the gravel road miles into ranch land. Rocks of all sizes peppered the hillside where even desert vegetation could hardly take root.

All my life I have hoped to pick up a rock and find it is a geode with beautiful crystals inside, the type often used as book ends when polished. Today was my day. As we all turned over stones on the hillside, I picked up a non-descript rock the size of my fist. I turned it over and found it cracked in half. Staring at me for the first time in my life was the geode I’ve hoped for decades to find.

It wasn’t polished and was pretty rough looking but I had finally found my geode. I forget exactly what I said with surprise to the others as I treasured this rock in my hand. They were as thrilled as I was. My grand daughter immediately said with a wonderful, joyful smile, “Grandpa, can I have it?”

“Sure, Emily,” I replied, her innocence and love in two nanoseconds overcoming my grudging bit of selfishness as I placed it in her hands.

I laughed at myself over the whole situation. The stone really wouldn’t have added anything of value to my life, certainly not in comparison to Emily’s love. A few days later Emily wrote me a birthday card and gave me a present made by her beautiful two hands. Her card and gift on my desk convey a lot more joy than the geode would have. I laugh at myself to think that a part of me balked for a nanosecond when Emily politely requested the stone.

If innocent pure love overcomes momentary selfishness, how much more can continued love overcome even harder hearts? Thank you, Jesus, for this lesson.

The US Constitution is Grounded in Natural Law of the Creator

When trying to defend the religious and moral heritage of the US Constitution, one often hears that reply that nothing in the US Constitution states it is based on the bible. Alexander Hamilton made some interesting comments on this topic. Hamilton discussed national laws relation to the creator. He did not mention the bible itself.

“The Rev. Samuel Seabury wrote an article in the New York press on January 5, 1775. The ‘Westchester Farmer’s” A View of the Controversy between Great-Britain and her Colonies . . . ‘

“Hamilton struck back within two weeks of the first appearance of Seabury’s essays in Rivington’s Gazetteer, … , The Farmer Refuted, printed by Rivington as a tract, appeared on February 23, 1775.”

Part of Hamilton’s response to Seabury reads:

“The fundamental source of all your errors, sophisms, and false reasonings, is a total ignorance of the natural rights of mankind. Were you once to become acquainted with these, you could never entertain a thought, that all men are not, by nature, entitled to a parity of privileges. You would be convinced that natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator to the whole human race, and that civil liberty is founded in that, and cannot be wrested from any people without the most manifest violation of justice. Civil liberty is only natural liberty, modified and secured by the sanctions of civil society. It is not a thing, in its own nature, precarious and dependent on human will and caprice, but it is conformable to the constitution of man, as well as necessary to the well-being of society.

“The Sacred Rights of Mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the Hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”

While Hamilton does not explicitly mention the bible, he explicitly mentions that our creator is the basis for the natural law from which civil law is derived.

The above quotes were taken on July 11, 2017 from: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/hamilton-the-revolutionary-writings-of-alexander-hamilton#lfHamilton_head_008

Losing A Friend Is Hard.

I can remember back to 1950 when I was five years old. My first friend was Jackie Dominski. Jackie’s dad built a fort in his backyard that Jackie and I would play in. It was a lot of fun, as I recall it.

We lived on the same street, Syracuse, in Detroit.

I can still recall the day – even though it was 65 years ago – that Jackie walked down to my house to tell me something. I can still picture him telling me as we stood eye to eye on the sidewalk on a nice summer’s day.

In a very friendly tone, Jackie said, “My father got a new job and we have to move away. I can’t be your friend any more.”

I understood and said, “Good bye, Jackie.” Jackie turned around and walked back to his house. I can still picture him with his back to me walking down the street. I had just lost my first good, close friend.

Amazing, isn’t it, that I recall that day so well. Good friends are so important. They are the building blocks of our hearts, love, and strength. I think what I missed most back then was losing the joy of playing and having fun with Jackie in that rickety, wooden structure we called a fort.

I have had a lot of close and wonderful friends since then. And so fortunate for me, I still do, very precious friends with whom I’ve shared the deepest parts of my heart, only not in a rickety fort. Now it’s restaurants and accountability groups, over coffee or lunch. Lots of laughs and sometimes looks of exasperation. All encased in love, God’s love, now.

So why is it then, that as we mature, those early years still have such a bearing on us. I just had lunch this week with another guy, who in the past three years, I’ve only have had a few one-on-one lunches with. He’s a busy guy, yet the kind of guy you just want to get to know deeply and by whom you want to be known deeply. He’s a tender hearted, mature man of God who will enable you to grow in Christ’s love as you share laughter and life together. My friend, Norflette.

Norflette told me that he is taking another job on the other side of town. As Norflette was talking, my mind rushed years back and I thought to myself, “I’m having another Jackie Dominski experience. I don’t want this.”

It’s so hard to establish a good friendship. It takes time. Distance makes it difficult to keep that relationship growing. Yet, all I have to do is drive a little further now to have lunch with Norflette. I will surely miss his wonderful sermons, his love for the Lord, his enthusiastic praise of God as he leads worship. And with Norflette gone, we will miss his wonderful wife, Shenay. If one thought Norflette loved the LORD, you should meet Shenay. What a powerhouse of God’s wisdom and love she is.

As I think of my loss, my heart still breaks for a fellow I met in 1970 while in Long Bihn, Vietnam. We both happened to be walking outside my barracks one day. I had never seen him in our company area before. I struck up a conversation with him and he told me he was on temporary duty assignment. He was to be a liaison with other companies.

It was midday. Having nothing to do, I asked him to come down to the company lounge area, have a drink, and meet some of the guys. He said, “No.”

I asked him, “Why not?” His answer burned into my memory.

He calmly said, “I’ve been in country three months. The first month, I made a friend and he died. The second month I made another friend and he died. The third month I made another friend, and he died. I don’t want another friend.”

With that, he turned around and left our company area. I was speechless. I didn’t know how to answer him. I can still picture him walking away with his back to me in his green army fatigues. He had lost all his friends. How heart breaking that had to be.

Over the years, I have thought to myself, I should pray more regularly for him. Did he ever make a friend for himself after Vietnam? Has he spent decades in loneliness for fear of losing more friends?

At church service today, the LORD gave me an insight that lightened this load of a lost/changing friendship. When we lose a close friend, we can feel like we are treading water. The LORD helped me realize that He trusts us enough even when treading water that we can do the work he calls us to do. He has faith in us. I need to maintain my faith in Him. It brings to mind Peter walking on the turbulent waters of the Sea of Galilee. As long as Peter had faith in Christ, he had no trouble walking on turbulent waters.

Cherish your friends. Pray for our veterans. Be a friend. Walk on water with Christ.