Tag Archives: Jerusalem

On My Mind: A Car, A Meeting, and A Conversation

Here is what’s on my mind this evening. I hope it adds some value to your day, but even if it doesn’t I’m happy to get this off my chest.

A Car: Ode to a Prius

Taking delivery of my 2015 Toyota Prius V, Texas Toyota of Grapevine. 6.19.2015

Taking delivery of my 2015 Toyota Prius V, Texas Toyota of Grapevine. 6.19.2015

If you had told me three weeks ago that I would trade my nice, luxurious 2007 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer SUV for a Toyota Prius I would have told you that you don’t know me very well. I purchased my Expedition in December, 2013 and was instantly taken by it’s massive size, comfortable ride, and luxurious appointments. Even the meager average 15.4 miles per gallon fuel consumption did not mitigate my affection for that vehicle. It also didn’t hurt that the Expedition won me instant credibility among the Fort Worth elite as I parked it in the Justin lot at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo alongside the vehicles of other rodeo volunteers.

As I write this today, I am the proud owner of a 2015 Toyota Prius V and, yes, Texas Toyota of Grapevine gladly accepted my Expedition in trade. I drive a lot in my job, and in just over a week’s time I put almost 700 miles on my new Prius, averaging just over 40 miles per gallon. My Prius is stylish – and that’s not just my opinion. Every colleague and prospect I have driven thus far has offered that feedback. The car is smooth, quiet, and equipped with cool gadgetry that I am still learning to operate. Based on my simple math, I have saved 29 gallons of gas – about $75. The gas savings alone will cover over half of my monthly payment and I am pumping significantly fewer toxins into the air. I’d say that’s a win all around.

A Meeting: The Value of Face-to-Face

"These dogs are barkin'!" ~ Del Griffith in Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

“These dogs are barkin’!” ~ Del Griffith in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. June, 2014

I have been blessed to enjoy a wonderful career in corporate risk management. Topics that many would find dull, such as safety protocols, claims management, and insurance terms & conditions are quite interesting to me. In Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Neal Page said something along these lines in his rant against Del Griffith’s boring stories, “I could sit in an insurance seminar for days and listen to them drone on and on with a big smile on my face. People would ask me, ‘how do you do it?’ and I’d tell them, ‘because I’ve been with Del Griffith.’” On that point I disagree with Neal Page; I thoroughly enjoy those seminars!

I enjoyed some great meetings today; meetings in which we discussed strategies for safety and claims management and how sound practices in those areas can enhance the work experience of employees and the customer experience of guests. During a break this afternoon I was struck by the fact that we humans were created to be relational; to interact with one another, to shake hands, smile, agree and even disagree. Technology has led us to a fast-paced business tempo in which we often communicate via email, online chat, or conference call. Even our social relationships are moving more online as we interact with friends and family via the plethora of social media outlets available at the click of a mouse. Those things have their place, but after a day like today, I’m reminded of just how important it is that we engage our world without the barriers of pretense or technology. Nothing replaces sitting down and talking.

A Conversation: Why Don’t We Talk Anymore?

Speaking of sitting down and talking, I was once a Facebook Ninja. At least, that’s the best term I can come up with to describe a person who pages through his news feed and pounces on others’ comments on topics upon which I disagree. Often, those posts would launch a rather ugly exchange that served no purpose but to tick one another off. I’ve made a conscious effort to change my ways over the past year or so, and while I am still tempted to drop a vitriolic comment every now and then, I’m happy with my progress to this point.

8.9.2014 Enjoying a delicious home-cooked Brazilian feast with dear friends, courtesy of the Dunn's.

8.9.2014 Enjoying a delicious home-cooked Brazilian feast with dear friends, courtesy of the Dunn’s.

We are living in very historic times, and we are quickly losing the ability to talk to one another about things of extremely great importance. The media no longer reports news; it spins statements and circumstances in an effort to drive ratings. In my opinion, the so-called news channels and the national and local network news outlets offer very little of substance or value to the American people. We the People are no better, for we readily consume the kool-aid offered up by our favorite TV spin doctors, regurgitate bits and pieces of it on social media, and commence to attacking one another for being stupid and uninformed. As all of this plays out, I fear we are squandering the greatest nation that ever existed.

I have good friends from all political persuasions. We sometimes trade barbs on social media, but I haven’t talked personally with many of them for years. I’ve often toyed with the idea of hosting a “Friend Summit”. It would be a weekend to gather friends from various walks of life and political ideals and discuss the issues of the day – everything from taxation to immigration to gay marriage – not necessarily to try and change each other’s minds but to arrive at least at an understanding of where our perspectives are coming from. But most importantly, my aim would be to reinforce for each of us that we are all children of our Creator, we all want to live a good life, and we all need each other. I’m still kicking this idea around in my head; I wonder if anybody would come.

Spiritual Nourishment ~ Acts 16:1-5

So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.                         ~ Acts 16:5

Paul and Silas first met Timothy in Lystra. Timothy was the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek (Gentile) father. He had not been circumcised but Paul does so here “because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek” (vs 3). It appears that Paul came to Lystra, at least in part, to find Timothy as we are told that the disciples in Lystra and Iconium had spoken well of him. Paul wants to take Timothy along on the journey. Although not required, Timothy’s circumcision gave him credibility among Jewish Christians.

Paul also is delivering the letter from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem recorded in chapter 15 regarding salvation for the Gentiles. The apostles and elders, in coming to consensus on the Gentiles, gave these directions to the Gentile Christians: “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality” (15:29).

English: Communion setting at an Evangelical L...

English: Communion setting at an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America worship service: an open Bible, both unleavened bread and gluten-free wafers, a chalice of wine, and another containing grape juice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paul’s mission, and that of all of the apostles traveling in ministry was twofold. First, they visited the churches to strengthen the faith of those already converted. Second, through the church they reached out to those who did not yet believe. By nurturing the flock of believers and equipping them to witness, the church grew. The modern church can take a lesson here. Many churches today have diluted Scripture’s message in an effort to not offend the non-believer who just might wander inside. They often focus more on style (entertainment) than substance (Word and Sacrament). They serve up milk, but little solid food.

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:13-14)

This diluted approach to worship and preaching is of little value to the mature Christian, and hence he becomes malnourished; and a malnourished Christian is ill equipped for witness. Diluted preaching and teaching is of little value to the nonbeliever either. The lost need to hear the truth: We are dead in our sins and in need of the forgiveness that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ. They can go anywhere to be entertained or affirmed as individuals; the church must present the Gospel. If the church does not strengthen the believers and preach the entirety of God’s Word, neither the church nor its membership is equipped to reach the lost with the eternal truth of the Gospel.

Ponder this: Does my church present Law and Gospel? Do we celebrate Word and Sacrament? Am I being properly nourished for witness?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, today I lift all pastors, teachers, and leaders in Your church. I pray that you would guide their ministries so that they are effectively nourishing and nurturing Your flock. Equip us for ministry, Lord, according to Your will. In Jesus’ name. AMEN

Why Church? ~ Acts 11:19-30

The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. ~ Acts 11:21

The church at Antioch now becomes a focal point, along with the church at Jerusalem. Paul (still called “Saul”) and Barnabas spent much time there, preaching the Gospel to the Gentile population who converted in great numbers. We are told it is here that Jesus’ followers were first named “Christians”.

I am struck by the purity and sincerity of the apostles’ faith. Acting with sincere hearts under the clear guidance of the Holy Spirit, the church grew; not because of booming sound systems or feel-good sermons, not because of creative marketing committees or gimmicky social events. The church grew because the apostles presented the Gospel openly, honestly, and truthfully. The Gospel, and only the Gospel, is the message this dying world is so hungry to hear!

Trinity Lutheran Church

Trinity Lutheran Church (Photo credit: Seiya234)

Our churches today must take a lesson from the early church. The church is not to “fit in” to society politically, popularly, or socially. Sadly, many modern churches, including some large denominations and independent churches, have fallen into this trap so craftily laid by the evil one. Indeed, the church is to preach God’s Word so that believers are equipped to nurture one another, lovingly hold one another accountable, and effectively witnesses to those who need to know Christ.

Ponder this: Does your church stand firmly on God’s Word, or has it succumbed to societal pressure to conform with societal values? Are you willing to stand firmly on the Truth?

My prayer for today: Father, I pray today for Your church. Strengthen and bless those church bodies that faithfully stand on Your Word and preach Your Gospel. Convict those that have succumbed to the temptation to please society and guide them back to the narrow road of your good and perfect will. Give me the tools to lovingly witness to those who need to know our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray in His name. AMEN.

Lovingly Accountable ~ Acts 11:1-18

When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” ~ Acts 11:18

I would love to have been the proverbial fly on the wall when Peter returned to Jerusalem from Antioch and was confronted by the church elders regarding his visit with Cornelius’ family. Such a visit in a Gentile home was forbidden under Jewish law, and his brethren called him on it. When Peter explains the basis for his actions, the brethren begin celebrating the fact that the Gospel was also intended for Gentiles. Jesus’ statement about spreading the Gospel to the entire world was indeed coming to fruition!

I am struck by the apostles’ treatment of one another: As they seek to hold one another accountable for their actions, they are also willing to listen out of mutual love and respect. We can take a lesson from them. We are often too quick to rise up in judgment and jump to conclusions. And when we do, we often don’t listen to one another. Rather than working together out of mutual respect, dissention and division sometimes unnecessarily take over. In times of conflict we must stand firmly on God’s Word and hold fellow believers to that same standard; but in doing so, we must always treat one another out of Christian love and respect, even when we ultimately disagree.

Handshake

Handshake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ponder this: Do I listen well? Does my discourse contribute to the problem or to the solution?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for reminding me how I must treat my brothers and sisters in Christ. Although we will sometimes disagree – and not always reach agreement – help me to always see others with the kind of love You have for each and every one of us. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

No Longer Unclean ~ Acts 10:8-23

The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” ~ Acts 10:15

English: Peter's vision of a sheet with animal...

English: Peter’s vision of a sheet with animals, from Acts 10; illustration from Henry Davenport Northrop, “Treasures of the Bible,” published 1894 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peter, a Jew by birth, was about to be visited by Cornelius’ messengers – all Gentiles. The messengers would ask Peter to go with them to meet with Cornelius, also a Gentile, so that Peter could explain the Gospel to him. Commentaries offer a dual meaning to the vision Peter had – hungry and awaiting his lunch, Peter goes onto the roof to pray. As he prays, God gives him a vision of a sheet lowered from heaven containing various animals and creatures. “Kill and eat”, the Lord tells Peter, who responds that he has never eaten anything impure or unclean. The Lord tells Peter not to call anything impure that God has made clean.

As Peter was pondering the meaning of the vision, God answered his questions with the appearance of the Gentile messengers sent by Cornelius. Peter knew that God wanted him to go with them to declare the Gospel to Cornelius. God had not only delivered His promised Messiah to Israel, but He was extending that promise to the entire world and, in this situation, Peter was to participate. Remember Jesus’ words to His disciples recorded in Acts 1:8? “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” God’s plan to save the world through Jesus was indeed coming to fruition.

Commentaries also suggest that God, through this vision, abrogated Mosaic laws declaring certain animals unclean and therefore forbade their consumption. One could certainly draw that conclusion – Peter was hungry, a kosher meal was most certainly being prepared for him, and God sends this vision telling Peter that God considers these creatures also worthy and fit for human consumption. Gentiles already consumed such things; perhaps this was just one way of building the proverbial bridge between Jewish and Gentile tradition.

Through Jesus, God has freed us to enjoy His creation fully. He also wants us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone. God loves each and every one of us; even those who currently deny Him. We should love them, too; the greatest demonstration of such love is sharing the Good News of the Gospel.

Ponder this: People who need to hear the Good News cross my path daily. Who are they? Do I love them enough to share the Gospel with them?

My prayer for today: Father, please equip me with the wisdom and knowledge to appropriately consume that which You have given me; and give me the desire, courage, and opportunity to share Your Gospel with those around me who need to hear it. In Jesus’ name – AMEN.

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