Thursday, August 26, 2010
The tax collector has been hated throughout history. In times of old they would collect for kings and heads of state. They would take from the payor not only the money the king required, but in many cases as much as three to four times the requirement. And if you could not, or would not pay, it often meant imprisonment and even death.
Even today, the tax collector is not much liked. He is even despised by many. Many have lost their homes because they couldn't pay their mortgage or the taxes on their homes, or just couldn't pay their taxes. The IRS just steps in and freezes your assets, has meetings with you, and even charges you with tax evasion. Taxes and tax collectors are the enemy of the economy, but the friend of politicians who constantly want more of your money.
Therefore, I am somewhat disturbed that Jesus called a tax collector to be one of his twelve disciples. Would he be the one to later betray Jesus. Could this guy really be trusted. you might notice that Jesus did not give the money bag to Levi, but rather to Judas, who would later betray him. And yes, the issue was money.
But when you look at it objectively, Levi (Matthew) could have been one of the most important appointees to the discipleship. It was a statement by Jesus that even the those who are considered sinners, and off scouring, are able to be saved and be followers of Christ, and even leaders in the Church. This message gives hope to a lot of us. And it demonstrates God's power to save.
Many of us were worse than tax collectors (hard to do) and God reached down with his love and grace and saved us.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
There is just something about being clean that feels great! After a hard days work, it feels great to get into the shower and wash off the sweat and grime. The hot water is also therapeutic. Even clean babies are nice. After a day of pooing, peeing, and spitting up, they get their bath and come out smelling clean and fresh. Of course the baby oil also helps.
The same is true with our souls. There is a certain joy and freshness about being clean. In Luke chapter five a man full of leprosy came to Jesus and begged him, "if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus said, "I am willing, be clean." Jesus is the only one who can clean our souls. He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins so we would not have to. Now He is the One who can cleanse us. We can clean ourselves up on the outside, but only He can clean us on the inside.
It feels great to be clean!
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Luke 4:42 says: "at daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place."
There is a lot of commotion and noise in this world. One of my least favorite places to be is at a noisy restaurant where they have the music cranked up and everyone has to talk over the music. I usually just sit there being oppressed by the music and pretending to hear the people I am conversing with. Crowded pot luck dinners at church are about the same. When I turn on my car radio and the music is blaring... I shut it off. I don't like loud TV commercials. Sorry, Harley Davidson fans, but I don't like your loud motorcycle either. I feel really sorry for the mom who has three or four kids at home. Her husband is probably sitting in some quiet office. I don't mind a jet or two that flies over my house, but I do mind an onslaught of jets. I don't like riding in a noisy car while riding in a quiet car is a pleasure. I don't like fishing at a stream where a constant flow of cars and semis are going by. I think you get the picture.
Just like all the noise in our lives, the busyness of our lives can also be distracting. The constant bombardment of new challenges, answering questions, being here, and being there can sometimes be overbearing. A hectic daily schedule and just wear you down.
Jesus was just doing his job.... teaching and healing people and casting out demons. Sounds like a fun job to me. He made a lot of friends..... and.... a lot of enemies. He held several types of classes: Classes for His disciples, classes for the common people, classes for the religious leaders. He also spent a certain amount of time hiding out and fleeing for his life. Yes, His schedule was pretty hectic and with the crowds around Him there was a lot of noise.
So what did He do? He found a place where He could be alone, away from all the hub-bub. There He prayed and meditated and got himself recharged for life. Idiots like me would probable have a lot fewer problems in life if we would follow Jesus example. We would get our batteries recharged in prayer, learn from God's Word, and bask in the quietness before we go out and meet all the challenges and live in the duties and noises of this world.
This is why I value my early mornings. This is where I find my strength for the day. Even at Starbucks where they have quiet music, and a private table, I can read and meditate alone. A good Book, good music, good coffee, in a good atmosphere. I am usually ready for the day.
May God bless you with His presence and His Word.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Yesterday was Viola's funeral. In one sense it was like a great big family reunion which actually started the day before. Family poured in from all over the country. She still had 8 surviving children and their children. People came from California, Colorado, Tennessee, Michigan, Wisconsin, and.... well, you get the picture.
There was not a lot of sorrow expressed as Viola had been ailing for some time and was desiring to go to be with her Lord. But this was a chance to pay our last respects to this matriarch and to have one last large family reunion. The schedule kind of went like this:
Thursday: 3:00 pm - meet at the church for visitation, eat, take pictures, gab
5:00 pm - Family service where we all bragged about how stubborn Viola was - eat
again, gab, take more pictures.
Friday: 10:30 am - meet at the church, gab, get lined up
11:00 am - funeral
12:00 noon - eat, gab, take pictures
1:00 pm - off to the cemetery for the burial, then back to the church for
refreshments, gab, take pictures.
5:00 pm - eat again, gab, take more pictures.
Saturday: Get together, eat, gab and look at pictures.
So this is how Viola arranged for us all to get together one last time.
At home I know I can always get Starbucks. I prefer the Starbucks dark French roast although that is not what they normally brew. So it is Verona or Pikes Place. "No room"...... meaning, "black".
On the road it is different, though. Gas station coffee is usually not the best. But it does do it's job. It keeps me awake and keeps me peeing. The pit stops I must make also help to keep me awake and forces me to use my legs every now and then. I think gas station coffee is the real reason why Starbucks does so well. After a cup of Shell gas or Mobile oil (which is what their coffee really is) I'd pay anything for a good cup of Starbucks. One thing about gas station coffee is that if you run short on fuel, just pour it in your gas tank. It might even be cheaper than real gas. Just make sure there is no cream or sugar in it. Why would anyone put cream or sugar in their coffee anyway? That's one of the great riddles of life.
Right now I am enjoying a 16 oz cup of Holiday gas station coffee while I am sitting at the Toyota dealership in Devils Lake, North Dakota. They don't have Starbucks here, but they do have Toyotas. Last night in front of the old McConnel farm house there were three cars parked.... all of them Toyotas. One was my daughter's, another was my other daughter's. And the last one was my wife's. Well, my wife's brother drove his Camry up from Denver. My neice drove her Corolla up from Longmont. My nephew drove his Camry up from Denver. Sheesh! We could start our own Toyota dealership and survive by selling cars to ourselves.
But I bet a Starbucks would also do well in this part of the country. Once these people up here taste real coffee there will be no stopping them. We could put the Starbucks right next to the Toyota dealership and have a real winning combination..... especially if it is out on highway 2 where other people who know what a Starbucks is will see the sign. Better yet.... we could sell Starbucks at the gas stations where people go to fill up their Toyotas. Na, those Priuses don't use much gas and we wouldn't have many visitors. But on the other hand we might sell more Toyotas.
Friday, August 13, 2010
My Mother-In-law, whom I loved very much passed away a few days ago. Last night was the family service and today was the funeral. My wife, Audrey, sat by her bedside as she drew her last breath. She went from pain to peace in an instant. Her sorrow and suffering were over. She had an appointment with God, as we all do. And she is now absent from this earthly body and is in the presence of the Lord.
Viola evidently had a reputation for speaking her mind and not many people escaped her thoughts spoken out loud. I loved Viola and I knew she loved me back because she told me so and I know she wouldn't have said it if she didn't mean it. She was one of my visits when I took my annual fall tour. I'll never forget the day that I first showed up with a beard. I had always been clean shaven until this time. When I first walked through the door she pointed at me and said, "I don't like your beard!" I knew she meant it, too. The next time I visited her I still had the beard. She said, "I still don't like your beard!"
Viola was that way with a lot of people and that is what was shared at the family service. It seemed to be a common theme. Although the stories were a little humorous, I began to think that maybe Viola was getting a bad rap. Well, a sorta bad rap anyway. It must be remembered that Viola had ten children over a period of 22 years or so, with the last child leaving home 18 years after that. So for about 40 years Viola had kids at home. I think that would make anyone a little testy at times. It might even make a mother a little bossy. But after all, isn't she really the boss?
Well, folks, the era of Viola Sinness is over. I have no sorrow for her at her passing. I do have a little sorrow for myself. I will definitely miss hearing her say that she doesn't like my beard. She was honest and I value that.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
In an earlier blog I wrote about how Jesus cursed an olive tree because it had no fruit on it. Usually a tree produces fruit after the type of tree that it is. God expects the same from Christians.
In Luke 3 many people came to John the Baptist to be baptized. John accused them of being a generation of vipers and asked who warned them to flee the wrath which is to come. Then in verse 8 he said, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."
In politics a new term has been used a lot lately. That term is RINO. Not as in Rhino. It means, "Republican in name only." Meaning that a person calls himself a republican but does not really uphold the republican values and platform.
A lot of Christians are like that, also. They claim to be Christians but fail to produce the fruit of a Christian. They fail to live the life style of a Christian. They are Christians in name only. The questions are: 1) Have you been born again? and, 2) Have you repented of your sins, and 3) are you actively living the Christian life style?
The first two of these three are relatively easy. Accepting Christ is easy. Being sorry for your sins of the past is easy. But living as a Christian, now that's the hard part. But that is where the rubber hits the road. This is where others will know who we are. This is also how we become a blessing to the kingdom of God.
I don't know about you, but my fruit tree seems a little barren lately. Perhaps I am too self absorbed. It's time to bear fruit.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Viola Sinness was my 93 year old mother-in-law..... until last night when she passed away in her sleep. She was one of my favorite persons and I know that she liked me. I respected her and it was hard for me to see her fade away and suffer the way she did, especially over the past year. Her daughter, and my wife, Audrey, was with her at the very end. So, she was not alone and Audrey was where she wanted to be when this moment came. I feel a great loss, but no sorrow, for I know that Viola is where she wants to be. Whatever sorrow I am experiencing is for myself for there is now another empty place in my heart.
I want to express my condolences to all of her loved ones. God's peace will fill your heart with the knowledge that Viola is with Him. "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." Right now Viola is younger than us all and her youth is eternal. I wish these tears of mine would stop flowing.
I went on a big hike with my friend, Cory Buckman, on Saturday. The intention was to do two peaks in one day, both of them fourteeners. For those of you outside of Colorado a fourteener is a mountain that has a 14,000 summit. Our selection was Grays Peak and Torey's Peak. I was up there twice before and knew it would be an arduous hike.
The hike turned out to be longer than we thought it would be as we had to park three-quarters of a mile downhill from the trail head. I'm not sure what happened since 5 years ago, but I think I lost a little spring in my step. One thing I do know is that my knees hurt a lot more this time up than last time. They hurt even worse on the way down. Not too bad, though. Only like knives stabbing me under the knee cap on each step. But all-in-all it was a great experience.
One thing we failed to do was make the final push up to the summit. For me it was a question of whether I would walk down the mountain. Gotta get those knees fixed before Obama says I'm too old.
Cory was like an old horse headed for the barn after a hard day's work. The closer we got to the truck the faster he walked. I hobbled along pretty good keeping up with him. After my next cortisone shot I think I will try it again.
Also, today I am in Estes Park, Colorado. This is a beautiful place and a nice place to get out of the heat. I'm in the loft of a cute little coffee and stationary shop looking out the window at the mountains. I have the entire loft all to myself, which is good for me, but bad for business. They also have the nicest easy listening music playing. I don't have the photos ready of the hike, but I have attched some photos of Estes Park. I