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Being Present

Being present is something I think our culture struggles with every day.  We are in a conversation but our minds are elsewhere, or we are in a meeting at work and our minds are distracted.  We are so overwhelmed with information and media and busy schedules that it can be difficult to focus on the task at hand, even for me.

Think about it…

Have you ever been in a situation where you are constantly thinking about being somewhere else other than where you physically are?  I began a new book by Lois Tverberg “Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus” and came across an interesting thought on a passage from Exodus.

In Exodus 24:12 God has summoned Moses up to the mountain. “The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.”  While we look at this as Moses going up to the mountain to wait, rabbinic commentary on this would read more like “Come up to me on the mountain and be here.”  Oddly enough one would think that Moses is already there if he came up to the mountain.  Our English would translate it as “stay here” or “wait there”.

Rabbi Mendel, a nineteenth-century rabbi, had spun a sermon from this passage.  He commented “If a person exerts and ascends to the summit, it is possible to reach it, while not being there.  He stands on the summit of the mountain, but his head is somewhere else.” It is possible to go somewhere and not really be there.  It is entirely possible to spend a lot of money and time to get to a destination while your thoughts remain at the original point of departure.  The rabbi imagined God telling Moses not only to come up Mount Sinai but to be there fully, with complete attention and concentration.  As if on this momentous occasion of giving Moses the covenant, God wanted Moses to be there in body, mind, and spirit.

This is great advice for our own time and culture…

Be present

As Tverberg points out, “this is very helpful advice for reading the Bible.  As you read, do your best to be there. In our cellphone-saturated world, some of us need to go into airplane mode and detox so our heads quit buzzing, just so we can think straight.”  As hard as it is, we have to be present in our walk with God.  It doesn’t “just happen”.  It takes intentionality and purposeful decisions to stay engaged with our heavenly Father.

 

 

The Hope of Spring

I am ready for Spring and I know I am not the only one!  Honestly, I am a four seasons kind of guy. I love them all in their time and place but Spring always holds some special things.

Easter

Spring Break

Opening Day of Baseball

Warmer temperatures that replaced winter snows

Renewed life in flowers, plants, and trees

Hunting morels (hopefully finding morels)

Fresh green grass and the first mow

Preparation and planting of the garden

A return to outdoor campfires

I could probably go on with other things but the main idea is new beginnings, renewed life, and hope. Some of the things in our garden will come back after appearing to be dead all winter while other things have to be replanted every year.  For baseball fans, maybe this is the year your team will make the playoffs.  Spring brings the anticipation of life and hope from the cold of winter.

We have a greater hope that comes from the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Jesus was crucified during the Jewish Passover.  But even more astounding is the Scripture passage from Ezekiel 14 that would have been read on the Sabbath following Passover and the death of Jesus.

1The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophecy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. 11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”

I want you to picture yourself as one of Jesus’ followers on the third day after he died.  On the Passover Sabbath, you heard the Ezekiel passage read as it is always read on this particular Sabbath.  But now it is the third day and you start hearing rumors that Jesus is alive!  Could it be true, just like in Ezekiel, has life been breathed back into the bones and body of Jesus? Our hope and joy in life come from a much stronger and much deeper place than we can even imagine.  The same power that restored the body of Jesus is the same power that is alive in all of us who have accepted Jesus Christ and who now follow him as a disciple.  I pray that this brings you great hope, encouragement, and peace.

This is where a new hope and a renewed life come from.  Spring is for me, a pale reflection of the real hope found in the resurrection of Christ.  Dry bones being made alive!

Life is hard

This hope is real

Live in hope!

 

Walking With Jesus

I have been thinking quite a bit about the kind of person other people see when they encounter me.

What kind of impression do I give off?

Do others leave an encounter with me feeling better or worse?

I think those are valid questions we all should ask ourselves.  I have a college student who had an encounter with a person at work.  This person was unhappy, belligerent and rude but upon leaving the store felt the need to say “God bless you” to my student.  An encounter like that can leave a sour taste in your mouth, especially if you feel like they would have considered themselves a believer in Christ, yet the actions didn’t line up with the words spoken.

What do your words and actions say about who you are?

1 John 2:1-6  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

I like those words at the end, whoever says he abides in Jesus ought to walk in the same way in which Jesus walked.  I don’t think it gets any more simple than that.

Picture this: You are one of a handful of disciples following a particular rabbi in 30 AD.  You walk everywhere your rabbi walks, trying to be as close to him as you can.  So close, in fact, the dust from his sandals is all over the front of your feet and your cloak.  The reason you walk so close to him is to hear everything he says.  You try to imitate his gait, his speech pattern, you try to think and reason the way he thinks and reasons.  Because your ultimate goal is to walk with God just like your rabbi walks with God.  So you don’t want to miss anything he says… ever.  You eat when he eats and you sleep when he sleeps, trying to imitate everything he does.  Those were the marks of a good disciple.  It is no wonder John says if we know His teachings (commands) we know Him.  And whoever abides in Jesus will walk in the same way he walked.

On Mt. Arbel overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the region where Jesus taught his disciples for three years. They would often gather around Jesus just like we are gathered around Marty as he gives us an overview of the region.

 

Climbing down Mt. Arbel. Following the path that our leader took was crucial at so many points on our trip. Every day we walked the same paths and roads Jesus and his disciples would have traveled!

Gandhi is reported to have said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone said “I think Jesus was in my life today” because they met you? I think that’s what we are called to be, a disciple in whom others would see the qualities of Jesus.

Make this your prayer this week, Father, help us learn to walk as Jesus walked.

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