Sunday, December 18, 2011
“It is the way of forgiveness,” his father responded. “It is what God asks of us.”
“How did it start?” Enosh asked, stepping quickly to keep up with Father’s long stride. “I mean, I know who made the first sacrifice, but why does it have to be like this?”
Father shifted the position of the lamb he carried on his shoulders. “You know this, Enosh! You tell me why?”
“Because God said so.” Enosh stated.
“Yes, but why?” Father asked.
“Because Adam and Eve broke the rules.” Enosh said.
“The first sin,” Father said. “And the first sacrifice.”
“But why?” Enosh asked again. “Look! The city!”
They had just come around a corner on the mountain trail and now the city of Jerusalem lay in the clearing below them.
“Look at the temple!” Father said, pointing to the middle of the city. The temple’s white marbled splendour was hard to miss. It was like a pile of fresh snow in a dirty city.
Father gave Enosh a gentle shove and headed down the trail. “Come on, let’s get down there!”
Enosh took one last look at the city. Coming up behind Father, Enosh studied the lamb draped across Father’s shoulders. The lamb’s little head peered over the edge of the precipice, down at the city.
“He has no idea,” Enosh said as he fell into step with his father.
“Hmmm?” Father said.
“The lamb,” Enosh said, looking at the small legs father was holding loosely against his chest. “He has no idea that his throat is about to be slit from ear to ear.”
“That’s a bit gruesome,” Father said.
“But it’s true,” Enosh said. “Isn’t it? The priest is gonna hold him down on the altar and pull a knife against his little neck and all his blood will spurt out and he’ll die.” Enosh said all of this with a matter-of-fact seriousness, trying to act like it didn’t bother him.
“True enough,” Father said. “That is what will happen.”
“I still don’t get it,” Enosh said. “Why does our lamb have to die?” His voice betrayed him, cracking, as he spoke. “Or any lamb? They didn’t do anything wrong.”
Father stopped on the side of the trail and squatted down. He lifted the lamb off his shoulders and placed it in front of himself. Enosh came around the other side of the lamb and ran his fingers through its soft coat.
“Enosh,” Father said.
Enosh looked up and blinked against the tears. He looked across the lamb into his father’s eyes. “Yes, Father?”
“Offering a sacrifice teaches us three things,” Father explained. “First, we give one of our own animals, not a stray or a wild animal, so we feel the loss. By giving up something we value, we take ownership of what is about to happen.”
Enosh looked down at the lamb and slowly back up to his father. “But it’s sad. It hurts in here,” Enosh pushed his fist into his stomach. “It’s hard to breath.”
“That’s what sin should do to us,” Father said, “every time.”
“The second thing we learn,” Father continued, “when we offer a sacrifice, is that God wants to forgive us. But it’s a difficult thing. Sin is like death. It takes God’s breath away, too. Only through a blood sacrifice can sin be forgiven. I don’t think I understand it any better than you do, really. But God said it, and so we do it. One day we will all understand.”
Enosh was surprised to hear his father say he didn’t understand. He thought his Dad knew everything! He explored his father’s face. “So, you mean, it hurts God when we sin, just like it hurts us when we make a sacrifice?”
“That makes me like God a bit more,” Enosh said. “I mean, a lot more than when I thought He just wanted us killing animals all the time.”
Father smiled. “And that, my son, is the third thing every sacrifice teaches us. God wants us as close as possible. By forgiving us, God is able to invite us closer. And we are able to approach Him.”
Enosh and Father tussled the lambs fur awhile longer and then father lifted it onto his shoulders and stood. Silently he walked toward Jerusalem. Enosh followed.
When they arrived at the temple, Father left Enosh by one of the courtyard gates. He was only ten, too young to go in. From where he stood, he could clearly see the altar.
It wasn’t long before it was Father’s turn. He lifted the lamb off his shoulders and handed it to the priest. The priest laid the lamb on its side and held it down firmly with one hand. With the other hand he drew a knife quickly and deeply across the little lamb’s throat.
Enosh saw blood gush out, into a bowl, and past the bowl onto the ground. The lamb twitched and jerked before going deathly still. The priest dipped his fingers into the bowl and applied blood on the horns of the altar. Then he poured the rest of the blood across the top of the altar.
Enosh shook his head sadly and a shiver ran up his spine.
Father nodded at the priest and walked toward the gate. Enosh quickly spun, putting his back against the wall outside the gate. Soon father emerged.
“Come along, Enosh,” father said, “All done.” Then after a pause, Father added, “Well, until next time.”
When I was in Year 7 I decided to raise a little money. I bought two hamsters. A boy hamster. And a girl hamster. When they were old enough the girl hamster had babies. I had talked to the local pet store and they had assured me that they would buy the babies from me once they had hair.
So, with litter three I added a new phase to my plan. I went to the fridge and got a small piece of cheese. Then I went to the spice rack and got the black pepper, some coriander and a pinch of salt. I rubbed each spice into the cheese. It was perfect. I went and arranged myself so that I was leaning over their aquarium. And then I ate the cheese. It worked. Slowly… But it worked. The mixture was perfect and I began to shrink. Soon I was only the size of one of the parent hamsters and I was sitting on the edge of the aquarium swinging my legs. I dropped into the aquarium, making sure not to land on any of the third litter. I curled into a ball and the final phase of my incarnation medication kicked in. I grew fur, four little pink feet and a really cute wiggly nose. I was a hamster! Yes! But I still had all my human super smarts. I had a plan and it was in full swing.
I went to the little baby pinkies and said, “Hey guys, spend a bit of time in the sun and then move over into the shady side. Don’t get cooked like those who have gone before you.” They just stared back at me – with closed eyes and wiggling noses. I tried again, “The sun is hot! The sun – that big round thing out the window – it gets real hot. It’ll warm you up. But, then you’ve got to move! Ok?” They squeeked in my general direction. Had they understood? I couldn’t tell.
By this time their parents had come to check out the new hamster that had dropped from above. They waddled up to me and nuzzled me for a bit. Suddenly I had a thought, These are the parents! The guardians of the little ones. I’ll tell them! So, I did. They didn’t seem impressed. Their response baffled me. They said, “Nope. That’s not why the babies die. They just die. The have all died. Death is inevitable. Nothing we can do about it. And we reckon, why not die warm. So, we put them in the sun while they die.” I was dumbfounded. I tried to correct their misconceptions. It’s the sun that’s killing them! They didn’t like my ideas. Who was I to correct them anyhow?
I went and began picking the babies up in my little bucktoothed mouth and carrying them to the cool corner. The parents began squeaking uncontrollably. After I dropped a baby in the shade and headed back to pick up the next one, the mother would grab the one I’d just dropped and move it back into the sun. It was useless, but I kept trying. And trying. And they kept ruining every attempt I made.
Then I had another idea. I began furiously pulling out all of my hair. The two adult hamsters stopped scurrying and watched me in fascinated horror. I ripped out every bit of hair that I could reach with my teeth. Then I explained, “You are adults. You have hair. Your hair protects you from the sun. Watch.” Then I went over and laid down in the sunny corner. On top of the babies. Protecting them from the sun that was bearing down on us. I began to get hot. Very hot. My breath started to speed up. My back stung where the sun seared my hairless skin. My breath became like breathing fire. Finally it was too much and my little hamster body died. The parents saw me stop breathing. They approached carefully and sniffed. I was dead. They pushed their noses against me and rolled me off of their little ones. Then they buried me with the sawdust that covered the floor of their home.
When did yo
I would rather be a fool for Christ – praising his name, exposing my faith and inviting the world to him. I would rather be a fool for Christ, than the wisest man on this fireball waiting to happen. I choose life. I choose Jesus. What about you? Will you be a fool for Christ? Your story will be unbelievable. And people will tell yo
Sunday, December 04, 2011
He was never home (he said he didn't even have one). He was always out with his mates.
He had long chats with prostitutes and ignored his mother. He had so few personal boundaries that he had to pray when everyone else was asleep.
He chose the wrong crowd. When he needed them, his friends failed him. They fell asleep while he was crying and ran away when he was being beaten up.
Jesus fought and died for a cause only he understood.
Know any men like Jesus? Why not tell them you love them just the way they are? Jesus does — because he understands them. He's been there, done that.
Jesus is just one of the guys. Gotta love Him!
Friday, December 02, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Thursday, November 03, 2011
Since meeting the serpent in the Garden, humanity has been prone to hiding in fear when God approaches. Is it our relative nakedness – both spiritual and emotional – that drives us away from His presence?
And yet, at every visit, God repeats, “Do not fear!” He said it to Abram, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac, Jacob… The list goes right through the Old Testament. Finally, at Jesus’ birth the angel choir bursts on stage with a mighty, “Fear not!”
When God or an angel enters human sight, the inevitable opening line is, "Do not be afraid." Why is this? Is it the brightness of the new arrival in comparison to the darkness on Earth? Is it the unexpected nature of the appearing? Is the human fear justified?
After Jesus’ mission on earth was finished and He stood ready to return to Heaven, His parting words were, "I am with you always." What happened between the "Do not be afraid" heralding Jesus' life on earth and His "I am with you always" farewell? How was it that He no longer needed to say, “Do not fear?” How did Jesus replace the fear of God’s appearance with longing for His presence?
Jesus was a beacon of God’s love. He revealed the true nature of God’s character to the world through His compassion for the broken and His desire to seek justice for the downtrodden. Jesus was God in humble human flesh. Children flock to Him and yet demons flee at His command. What manner of love is this?
To know Him is to love Him. To know who He is without desiring Him is to be truly terrified. The demons believe in Jesus and yet tremble because they do not desire a loving relationship with Him. Jesus revealed in relationship the joy of knowing God. Between His “Do not fear” entrance and His “I am with you always” exit, Jesus’ threw His arms open and embraced humanity – broken and fearful as it was – saying “It’s only me!”
Jesus, took his disciples well beyond their “faith pay grade” by walking on water in front of them. They panicked, screamed and looked for somewhere to hide. Jesus soothed his disciples saying, "Do not be afraid" ... "Its only me." what does this imply about His relationship with the disciples? They had become comfortable with Jesus’ human nature but when divinity peeked through He had to remind them who He was.
During our spiritual journey, we all experience things that take us beyond our “faith pay grade" which scares the "Do not be afraid" out of us. Just when we thought our relationship with God was fully embraced in the gentle arms of Jesus an new unexpected experience of faith shocks us. Something – a Bible verse, a youth rally, a sermon, a personal retreat, a prayer group – it can be anything. Something approaches us, walking on the water, and we hit the deck in fear and trembling. It is then that we need to know we are not alone.
When we Christians begin to speak to a nonbeliever about our faith, we often begin with a "Do not be afraid" statement or setting. A chat at a cafe. A conversation that uses "real life" stories. Our goal is to lead people from a "Do not be afraid" introduction to a joyful "I am with you always" experience. The temptation is to take them to the last page before they’ve read the book. A butterfly helped from its cocoon will never fly. The struggle develops strength and readiness for the next stage. Like Jesus, we need to stay close enough for them to know who we are through the entire journey.
It is only by maintaining a healthy and long-term friendship that we can get to the "it's only me" phase with our young-in-the-faith friends and family. When they have that spiritual experience that challenges their faith, how can our presence be a reassuring and comforting one? Our “it’s only me” will only calm them if we mean something to them.
The disciple-making journey is a gentle process of handing them over to Jesus. Our reassuring “it’s only me” is heard less and they begin to hear, “it’s only Jesus.” And when they hear that, when they hear “It’s only Jesus” and they relax – then we know we have done our job. They have Jesus and us for eternity. Then we can decrease while He increases. Our friend in the faith continues hand in hand with Jesus and we seek out another to whom we can say, “Do not be afraid.”
Be patient. Jesus took more than three years of daily relationship before He moved from "Do not be afraid" to "I am with you always." Surely there were many “it’s only me” moments before they relaxed into His presence.
Be patient. Be authentic. Be loving. And be present. Your example will speak volumes to those walking with you between "Do not be afraid" and "Jesus is with you always."
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
This is a tank simulator!
We have walked and walked and walked - for four days!
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
This was just on a post in a shop. There are funny things everywhere!
Monday, October 17, 2011
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
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