Sunday, April 30, 2006

Who sinned; this man or his parents? –John 9:1-7

A friend shared with me about a man with a very aggressive form of cancer who attends a Bible study. His cancer has come back again and he is facing a battle. He stopped coming to the Bible study. I asked his friend why and he said he stopped coming because someone at the Bible study said he was sick because he had committed some grievous sin.

We need to be careful when we decide to play “mini-god” and make pronouncements that hurt and damage someone’s spirit or faith; especially someone in the throws of battling cancer or any other major issue.

In John 9:1-7, Jesus passes by a man born blind from birth and the disciples asked Jesus “Did this man sin or his parents, that he was born blind?” In verse three, Jesus answers “Neither has this man sinned nor his parents but that the works of God should be displayed in him.” (From Jerry’s combined translation) Neither sinned; he was born blind so God could display his powerful, wonderful, healing power. If a specific act of sin was the cause of sickness and cancer, we would be sick all the time and have cancer all the time. If we belong to Christ, our sins are forgiven. Why do we think God grades sin on a curve? Obviously, they think the man with cancer must have committed a more grievous sin and therefore, deserves God’s punishment! All sin separates us from the pure and holy God, not just the ones we judge to be grievous. (Grievous sins are those sins we find objectionable in other people but never bother to see them in ourselves.) “To judge ourselves is our duty, to judge others is our sin.” (Matthew Henry)

God help us. And He has. His Son Jesus died for us to make us free from being sniveling, finger pointing mini-gods. In Jesus name we’re free. Amen

Commentary from the Life Application Bible: “A common belief in Jewish culture was that calamity or suffering was the result of some great sin. But Christ used this man’s suffering to teach about faith and to glorify God. We live in a fallen world, where good behavior is not always rewarded and bad behavior not always punished. Therefore, innocent people sometimes suffer. If God took suffering away whenever we asked, we would follow Him for comfort and convenience not out of love and devotion. Regardless of the reasons for our suffering, Jesus has the power to help us deal with it. Don’t ask God “why did this happen to me?” Instead ask God to give you a deeper perspective and strength to get through the trial."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Greatness of God

Our Bible study was in John when we came across the verse in John 14:12: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.” Usually today in Bible studies we “skate” over such verses we deem to have too much hyperbole or are too complicated. We have a lot of newer Christians in the Bible study and I felt we must address this verse and not skate over it. Unless they think Jesus may be talking through his hat.

At first glance do you feel Jesus was laying it on a little heavy when he said this? His followers would do greater things than Him.

Let’s look at it a little differently. Jesus in His world ministry possibly never worked outside a 50 mile radius in his three year ministry. How many people did he heal or raise from the dead? Hundreds or thousands maybe? We don’t really know because not every thing He did was recorded in scripture. Let’s just take a look at one thing: modern eye glasses.

In Jesus day if you had sight problems your only hope was to cope or pray for a miracle. Today we have eye glasses; we take them off and we can’t see very well at all. Put them back on and instantaneous 20/20 vision (if everything is up-to-date). Now each pair of eyeglasses is made specifically to each person’s personal prescription. You can’t use your buddy’s eye glasses when you lose your own. You might get some marginal help but more than likely you will end up with a headache…Is this greater work than Jesus’? Think of this—300 million people in the U.S. If 40% of the people need vision correction that is 120 million half-blind people that can now see. Think of this—bifocals, trifocals, sun glasses, anti-glare glasses, contacts hard or soft—what an impressive list.

I believe this is great work the followers of Jesus Christ have accomplished. Yes, but not alone. In His greatness, He gives us life and breath and everything else (Acts 17). Every beat of our heart, every breath we take is a gift from the Lord. None of us could do anything without that life, breath and everything else. Man can make pace makers and many other devices and in case we become puffed up in pride with our accomplishments, God determines when our heart beat begins and stops.

Isn’t the Lord great? What a privilege to be His son or daughter!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter Art--The Cleaned up Cross

Isaiah 52:13-15: “See, my servant will act wisely, he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him, his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness, so will he sprinkle many nations and kings will shut their mouths because of him…(NIV).

When I was little, I remember the crucifix on the wall in the dining room at my Uncle Ben & Aunt Lillian’s. It always got my attention. One day when I was there, I got up on a chair and looked at it really close to realize it was the cross with the crucified Jesus upon it. At five or six years of age I didn’t understand what it all meant.

Fifty plus years later at Easter I’m reminded of Christ’s sacrifice for my sins, His suffering, His death, His resurrection, His victory. Hallelujah!!

But this week I saw a church bulletin with a picture of Jesus dead upon the cross. This type of picture concerns me. Even in the church we’ve slicked up and cleaned up the cross. Jesus was beaten beyond human recognition for your sin and mine (Isaiah 52:13-15) yet our crucifixes and church bulletins are all cleaned up showing a perfect face with a drop of blood on the cheek just for the proper effect.

We, the church, have cleaned up Christ on the cross, minimized His suffering and pain and surely never show His disfigured face and head. Jesus took the full and complete punishment for my sin. God forgive me when I tolerate this cleaned up, sanitized version of the cross. It minimizes my sin, my sin just doesn’t seem quite as bad as it should when I see it portrayed that way.

Isaiah 52:13-15 (Message version) says in part: “at first everyone was appalled. He didn’t even look human—a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.”

Thank you Father, thank you Lord Jesus for Easter morning…Isaiah continues: “nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback, kings shocked into silence when they see Him. For what was unheard of they’ll see with their own eyes, what was unthinkable they’ll have right before them.” Amen.

Remember the cross is empty and “at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Never forget, never give up, and always hope. Jesus paid the full and complete price for us. What a thought to comprehend. We dare not minimize what he has done for us.

In Revelations 19:11-16 Jesus rides a white horse into battle, the armies of heaven (the angels and some think us) will follow the warrior King Jesus into battle and in the case the kings of the earth don’t know who He is…only have to look on His robe and thigh for written there is this name KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

May you have a Blessed Easter. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it. (I Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Missing Morrie

When someone shares a special verse with me and gives me special insight concerning that verse, I write that person’s name in the margin of my Bible. This reference serves as a constant reminder of how good the Lord has been to me by sending special people into my life who have taught me, challenged me, or encouraged me in my walk with Christ. It reminds me to pray for that person also. Some of the names in my Bible are Lee, Vern, Lloyd, Jeff, Gary, Kenny. One name shows up about 4 times is Morrie. It refers to Morrie Jorgensen, my somewhat melancholy Danish friend with a sense of humor and movie-actor good looks plus a smile that could stop the world. Oh, how I miss Morrie!

Born on a farm, his farmer father did not think Morrie’s bent to be an artist was the least bit worthwhile. Morrie was the maintenance man at the Dassel Nursing Home before he died. Morrie was an artist; I am privileged to have two of his original works. My friend, Lee Shelton owns what I consider the best of his paintings. It has a lamb lying in an old doorway. A lot of Morrie’s paintings had a spiritual theme. Artists who draw and paint fascinate me, probably because I am a complete klutz at it.

Morrie drove Mazda pickups. Equipped with a unique sense of humor, he would stop by our house in Cokato, get out of his pick up talking, and begin working me over verbally like no one else could do.

Morrie pointed out sins in my life. Good friends do that. Trusted friends do that and I loved him for it. Morrie said we earn the right to get in each other’s face. Morrie earned the right to get in my face.

The last time I saw Morrie was in Methodist Hospital; he battled a rare blood disease. Sitting erect in bed, with his wife Velma at his side, his big smile warmed our hearts. He said to me, “Jerry, if I don’t see you again, I’ll see you on the other side.” I look forward to the day I can see Morrie again.

I wish all of you would be blessed with a good friend like Morrie. Probably you are. Let’s all go out and be Morrie’s to the world!

Oh, how I miss Morrie!