Bonus Blog - “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”

In Tuesday's blog about transitions, I talked about my daughter, Kate, graduating from High School.  I asked her if she would allow me to share her graduation speech.  It was a joy to listen to her as she spoke and I trust you will enjoy reading her words.  She is great at living the Ordinary Life.

Kate Goodman - High School Graduation Speech
Tuesday, May 21, 2019

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”

That quote, said by a person who I know nothing about, is the backbone to my life.  Ever since I was young enough to be a Scott’s Tot, I was always the person who is a little “too enthusiastic” about life.  But the thing is, life has so much more meaning when we take the time to actually live. 

It’s pretty crazy to me that each person has about 2 billion heartbeats throughout their life.  I mean that's insane!  And what makes a person unique is how they use those heartbeats.  Whether its traveling to Sprance (Spain and France), or chowing down on potato chips at midnight, our lives are ours for the taking.  And we, seniors, are just beginning a new journey of life, with a whole new set of heartbeats.  And the best news? We get to choose what we do with them. 

So go out into the world, do something crazy, and make awesome memories  because life is worth living, and that is one of the many things my journey through school has taught me.

There are so many people that I want to thank, so let me say thank you:

- To my amazing parents.  You two have have formed me into the person that I am. I am thankful that I was raised in a home where you both love me so much and encourage me to be the best person I can be. I love you both so much.  Thank you, Max and Sam, for being the best brothers a sister could ask for.  Sure we don’t agree on what time is “on time”, but we always seem to have fun together. 
When I go to college, I will miss you four the most.  I love you guys.

- Thank you to my amazing family. To Papa and Mimi and Papa and BG. You are the best grandparents in the entire world and I will always treasure my memories with you.

- Thank you Braden, Allison, and Taylor for always being there for me.  You make my life 100% better and I keep all of our memories together close to my heart.

- Thank you to my youth group and my church for teaching me so many important lessons.  Thank you, Cory and Drew, for being great leaders and answering all of my weird questions. 

- And thank you most of all, to the Big Guy Uptop because none of this would have happened without Him.

As it is my first and last year of being a member of OP Board (which is Polaris’  student government), I think it is only fitting that I make one last resolution.  So…

Be it resolved by Operational Group, I, Kate Goodman, suggest that Polaris has helped me to grow in more ways than one, and prepared me for what is to come.


Completion Of a Pursuit

May is a month of transitions.  For Alaskans, May serves as the month of transition when spring gives way to summer.  Fishing rods, RVs, paint brushes, and lawn mowers again see the light of day.  Neighbors who haven't seen each other since the first snow of the past winter now share conversations on their lawns. 

For students from K through 11, Wednesday marks the transition to no school days until August. 

In the Goodman house, this May is a big transition for our daughter as she graduates from High School.  Kate graduates today!  My wife and I are very proud of her. 

Graduation marks a big event - the completion of a pursuit.  The Apostle Paul wrote of a pursuit of a different sort in his words to the Christ-followers in first-century Philippi.

10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:10-14 (NIV)

In verse 12 we read the words of Paul that inform us that he had not yet reached graduation.  That is, he was continually pursuing knowledge of Christ.  He stated his goal using a different image in his writings to the Corinthians. 

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)

Graduation for the Christian is knowledge of the depths of God's love and the gift of being fully known and yet still fully loved.  Tauren Wells sings this truth well in his song, "Known"  . . .

I'm fully known and loved by You
You won't let go no matter what I do
And it's not one or the other
It's hard truth and ridiculous grace
To be known fully known and loved by You
I'm fully known and loved by You


Everyday, Ordinary Lives

The words of Romans 12:1 serve as the bedrock for this blog.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. (MSG)

Paul's words encourage us to see that all aspects of our lives qualify for serving as sacrifices to God - as long as we turn them over to Him and they are not in contradiction to His way and will.  Any career dedicated to God, that is within God's established moral parameters, can glorify Him.  Any college major can open the door for the student to live his/her life for Christ.
  • Godly fathers "daddy" as an offering to God.
  • Jesus-following teachers instruct - remembering that Jesus "sits" in one of the student desks.
  • Christian attorneys litigate with integrity.
  • Christ-like physicians treat patients as children of God.
  • Kingdom-of-Heaven-minded politicians administrate with God's interests in mind.
In what ways do you "take your everyday, ordinary life and place it before God as an offering"?  Let me know.  Post how you live out Romans 12:1.  I look forward to hearing from you.


Joanna Who?

In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs.  Mark 15:41a (NIV)
One woman gave birth to Jesus.  However, in a way, Jesus had many mothers.  
There were Mary and Mary (not to be confused with Joseph's wife, Mary); Mary, the mother of Joseph (not to be confused with the carpenter);  and other women not named Mary, such as Salome and Joanna.  Mark (not to be confused with me) indicates that those women cared for Jesus' needs.  That is what loving mothers do.
I do not know the nature of all of Jesus' needs.  Nevertheless, I imagine the Marys Three (plus the others) tending to Him by . . .
- providing money for His journeys
- patching His robes when they needed mending
- washing His robes when they needed cleaning
- washing His feet (that one's in the Bible)
- offering Him a place to catch a nap
- sticking a "hang in there" note in His lunch
- praying for Him
And, finally, assuring that He received a respectful burial.  Only the last one was not needed.  As we celebrated just a couple of weeks ago, Jesus rose!  While their tending to His body was not needed, it was truly motherly.

While some of the women who tended to Him earn more mention in the gospel writing; others, like Joanna, do not.  That is really how it goes - isn't it?  Some people's story continues to be told, while others' accounts remain footnotes in history. 

Oh, but what powerful footnotes!

Women like Joanna loved, through action, the Lord Jesus.  

On this week preceding Mother's Day, I started to write about a mother of renown whose story history knows.  I thought better of it however.  Instead, I chose to write a tribute to all moms whose actions will earn a footnote or less.  They . . .
- provide love to their children
- stick notes in lunches
- wash jeans (rather than robes)
- place Band-aids on knees
- earn wages to provide for their living legacies
- make beds where little heads lie
- pray for their daughters and sons
To all of you - Thank you!
Whether history remembers you or not, you are caring for needs.  That makes Jesus happy.



According to the tiny numbers on the top right of today's date in my "At-A-Glance" calendar (yes, I still use an actual paper calendar), today is the one hundred and twentieth day of 2019.  Each of those 120 twenty-four-hour periods has offered me opportunities to live my Ordinary Life.  Some of those days were used wisely; some were filled with extra-Ordinary moments; some felt quite lengthy; some "flew" by; and still others offered moments for deep contemplation. 

As I live today and anticipate number 121 (for no particular reason), I do well to recall the words of Paul, so well known to me and many of you . . .

Romans 12:1 - So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life . . . (MSG)

May Day 2019, for some, marks the beginning of Spring.  For our friends who call Mexico home, it marks (again, according to my paper calendar), Labor Day.  For all of us, it marks the time where we know that 244 days remain in 2019 in which we can live the words of Romans 12:1.  I can think of no better way to live. 

Live well.



Sunday was no Ordinary day.  It was Easter after all!  Today, however, is back to normal.  At Rabbit Creek Church we live and breathe the words of Paul in Romans 12

Paul wrote those words while fully aware that one can live his everyday, ordinary life for God because of Jesus' victory over death.
. . . Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Romans 8:34 (NIV)
So fully aware of this truth, on this Tuesday after Easter (and every day, for that matter), followers of Christ are called to live for Christ through offering-worthy living. 

In light of the Easter (the Resurrection) celebration of two days ago, how is your light shining?  Are you living intentionally for Jesus?  If so, in your everyday, ordinary life, you are doing such things as . . .

  • Loving your family members
  • Expressing gratitude to God
  • Practicing patience with the less-than-aware driver
  • Forgiving as the Lord forgave you
  • Listening to your teacher
  • Caring for your elderly parent
  • Treating your employees with care
  • Treating your boss with respect
  • Singing songs of praise to God
  • Speaking truth in hope
  • Listening attentively to your spouse

Live your everyday, ordinary life in Easter-worthy fashion.


Worthy of Praise

"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

Luke 19:38 (NIV)

Do you feel the excitement?  The streets of Jerusalem found themselves full of such praise.  "Hosanna," that word of praise, literally means "save now."  Keep this in mind!  The people wanted Jesus to restore Israel and Jerusalem to a land of Zion.

The day was joyous.  Everything went according to plan.  Jesus instructed two of His disciples as to where and how they could acquire a colt.  They found the colt just as He said - tethered and ready.  Looking back on the occasion, those familiar with the Hebrew text, thought of several passages His actions fulfilled.  One rather interesting one is found in Genesis 49:10-11 . . .

10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
    and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,
    his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
    his robes in the blood of grapes.
While Jesus' choice of animals did point to humility and the unexpected nature of His fulfillment of the Messianic task, the donkey or colt also symbolized His ruling authority and His fulfillment of the promise to Judah.

Truly, no one except Jesus understood exactly what lay ahead; yet all saw the power of the moment.

Thousands of people poured into Jerusalem for the coming Passover.  Many of that number knew Jesus' ministry.  Those that did not experience His teaching and acts of wonder first-hand knew about Jesus due to the spreading word.  No one who feeds thousands or heals the lame goes unnoticed.

Prior to this day, many mourners watched as Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave.  Those "Hosannas" and "Blesseds" were shouted with voices fueled by amazement and wonder.  One can almost hear them say, "Certainly this man who raises from the dead comes in the name of the Lord."

The Father told the disciples to listen to Jesus.  Now came the opportunity for Jesus to listen.  How I imagine those words of praise rang splendidly in Jesus' ears!  How magnificent were the words of worship!

The one who humbled Himself by taking on flesh and coming to earth now, if only for a moment, listened to pure praise from the lips of those whom He came to save.

He is worthy of our praise!

Let Jesus hear your words.  Praise Him.


Look and Seek

Do you recall the parable of the seeds?  Within it we learn of seeds that fail to grow for various reasons.  Look for the reason given for such seeds. 
"Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful."
Mark 4:18-19 (NIV)
The seeds fail to grow because they lose focus on true fruitfulness as they grow weary under the strain of the worries of this world. 

The same parable, however, contains hope. 

"Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
Mark 4:20 (NIV)
Notice what strengthens those healthy seeds. Two actions:
1) Hearing the Word.
2) Accepting the Word.

Do you desire a life in which chronic stress is absent?  The path to such a life, while not easy, is within your reach.  Reach out to God through His Word.  Chapter six of Matthew is a good place to start. 

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Matthew 6:26 (NIV)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
Give attention to two verbs.  LookSeek
Those two action verbs identify the methods by which we overcome stress - how to place our heads in the right location.

  • Looking (trusting that God will provide).
  • Seeking (focusing on the kingdom of God).

is accomplished by devoting time to noticing the provisions of God.  For example . . .

  • Look to the birds (nature).
  • Listen to music that declares the glory of God.
  • Thank God you are able to pay your bills.
  • Praise God for the breath in your lungs.
  • Observe your child carefree at play.

is accomplished by hearing and accepting the Word of God.  For example . . .

  • Read the Bible.
  • Live according to the teachings of the Bible.
  • Worship the God of the Bible.
  • Give money generously - trusting that God will continue to provide.
  • Give time to others - showing the compassion of Christ.


That's Foolishness

"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."  So the saying-of-old goes.

While some people enjoy playing the fool, no one likes being made the fool.  Nevertheless, foolishness has its place.  In 1 Corinthians Paul detailed God's choice in utilizing foolish things.  He highlighted the foolishness of the cross.

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 
1 Corinthians 1:18-24 (NIV)

As a pastor I have the privilege of baptizing believers.  Each time I do, I ask the one being baptized, "What is your declaration of faith?"  (Given my many years of preaching from the 1984 version of the NIV, I often slip and replace "declaration" with "confession.")  They respond with "Jesus is Lord" - quoting from Romans 10:9

Jesus is Lord and He lords over everything - including death.  This is where the greatest foolishness enters the picture.  Jesus is Lord over even death itself because of His own death.

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 
1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)

The most tangible way in which we recall His wounds is our observance of the Lord's Supper - the other ordinance, in addition to Believer's Baptism.  In the same letter to the Christians in Corinth, Paul provided instructions as to the right (and respectful) way to share the Meal.  In the midst of his instructions, Paul wrote . . .
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:26 (NIV)
Proclaim the Lord's death?  I more readily proclaim birth, life, happy news, and praise than I do death.  However, here too, the greatest foolishness enters.  We are to proclaim death because His death completed the plan of redemption that God set in motion before the stars were born. 

It's not so bad, after all, to embrace foolishness.


One Lord

Today I am enjoying time with Cambodian pastors as I teach and share insights, encouragement, and resources with these Christ-followers and Christian leaders.  The siblings-in-Christ who reside in a land sixteen hours ahead of my home share the same passion; namely, to know Christ and make Him known.  While we live in different lands and speak different languages, we share the same core beliefs based on the inspired word of God.

A couple of years ago during a tour of the "Holy Land," fellow Rabbit Creek Church members stood with my wife and me in an ancient cathedral and sang the words of "Amazing Grace."  As we did, fellow Christians began to sing the same hymn, yet in a different tongue.  As we Alaskans sang in English, they as Koreans, sang in their mother language.  I count that as one of my favorite times of worship.

As a teenager, I spent some time in Australia.  While there, I (a Baptist) received Holy Communion from a Catholic priest.  It was, to my surprise, "real" wine.  The wine told me the same story as did my familiar Welch's. 

I have preached in Baptist, Methodist, and CME churches.  I have prayed with preachers, priests, deacons, nuns, and wanderers.  Through it all, Jesus connects all of His followers under the love-of-God-sized banner of Grace.

Ephesians 4:4-6 (NIV)
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.


Show Up

This weekend dozens of Rabbit Creek Church teenagers will gather in homes across our city for an event known as Discipleship Now, DNow for short.  They will gather for games; food; maybe a bit of rest; and, as the event title suggests, discipleship. 

Nearly three decades later, I still recall weekends dedicated to the same purposes.  As a student, just as ours will this weekend, I joined with other FBC Arlington teens for games, food, a bit of rest, and discipleship.  While I cannot recall the subject material, I do remember the purpose.  We gathered for relationship-building and spiritual growth.  While neither was a guaranteed outcome,  the mere act of attending made good results possible and even likely.

A few years later as I mentored under my pastor, he assigned me the task of creating a document that would accompany his teaching for people who were exploring church membership.  I took thorough notes as he taught.  A particular phrase he used caught my attention each time.  He would ask each inquirer to share their ideas on what they thought were the most important aspects of church membership.  Upon graciously hearing their answers, my pastor would say, "The number one key to church membership is showing up."  He went on to explain how being present leads the way to engagement and faithful service.  Yet he was intentional in communicating that it all starts with showing up. 

To this day I echo his conviction on that matter.

When you commit to showing up for worship and Bible study, the life-change is not guaranteed; but the mere act of attending makes good results possible and even likely.

My calendar shows me that March 24th is the next upcoming Sunday.  Find a church.  Find your church.  Show up.  Results may vary.  But, the mere act . . .


God Who Goes With You

Thank you to my friend, Chris Gonzales, for writing today’s post.
- Mark

Deuteronomy 31:6 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.

At our Small Group tonight we discussed the question: “When have you felt like God was not present?”  This question is deep and will likely call upon some of the most emotional and poignant times in our lives. My wife and I remembered a period of time after Jeremiah was born, with the medical challenges and all that comes with a preemie, when the pressure and stress seemed as if it was going to break us. The story is long and it is hard, if not impossible, to convey the emotion, sadness and the brokenness we each went through together and alone. 

Though, it is really unnecessary to give the specifics, as I am sure the mere mention of a time of brokenness brings to mind a similar time for you.

Unfortunately, we know, as we see in John 16:33 “…You will have suffering in this world…” But there is hope! And it is found in the promises of God as we read in Deuteronomy 31:6.

During small group, as we spoke of our dark times, we all spoke of how in those moments we found ourselves completely reliant upon God. I recalled the feeling of realizing my need for God, of clinging to God. I could see myself sinking in the world and holding to God as if it was the last knot at the end of my rope.

These times we have faced are (and will be) difficult, but true to God’s promise He never left me. God carried me through the tough times and because of them I am a stronger Christian now and I am better able to serve Him in this broken world.

I do not know all of the struggles you have faced, or will face, but I can promise you that God does. God knows the worst of this world and Jesus understands the depths of pain beyond our comprehension, but they have also conquered over sin and death. As it says in Romans 8:31If God is for us, who can ever be against us… therefore . . .

Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.

In Him,
Chris Gonzales


Ash Wednesday

Tomorrow evening from 6:30 - 7:30 our church family will gather for our Ash Wednesday service.  You may wonder about the meaning of Ash Wednesday and/or why we are offering such a service.  The answer is 46. 

Ash Wednesday occurs 46 days before Easter.  Subtracting Sundays from that number gives a count of 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. 

Forty, commonly found in Scripture, here represents the 40 days of fasting that Jesus practiced in the wilderness.  He prepared Himself for His purpose. 

On Easter, followers of Christ celebrate a great victory - the great victory of Christ.  The victory over sin.  Jesus gave His life for your sin and my sin; He rose from the grave; we celebrate.

Yet.  Is it wise to celebrate without knowing, really knowing, the reason for which we celebrate?  We need a reminder.  Ash Wednesday serves as that reminder.

Mark, in his gospel, records John the Baptist's famous phrase, "Repent, and believe the good news!"

Ash Wednesday reminds us to repent.  God calls us to confess our sins, which He is faithful in forgiving.  We confess and acknowledge the grace of God in forgiving us.

Join me on Ash Wednesday in confessing sins to God and thanking Him for His forgiveness.


The Hills are Alive

Last week my family and I journeyed to Alaska's PAC (Performing Arts Center) to watch a Broadway production of the classic "Sound of Music."  I restrained myself from singing along with the performers - perhaps a few words escaped, but hopefully noticed only by a mere few.

Music inspires me.  Truly the thought of a world void of music causes a shutter within me.  Even as I write this, the sounds of Elijah Bossenbroek's "Falling Away" fill my ears. 

I believe our Creator wired us with the love of music.  Every culture on earth cherishes music.  One reason for this, I believe, is that God Himself cherishes music. 

Beginning with Jubal (see Genesis 4), "the father of all who play . . . instruments" and continuing all the way through the accounts of the angels and people of nations singing praise to God in Revelation, the Bible is full of references to music.  Perhaps the most prolific in music was David, the second king of Israel.  One of David's most familiar songs (psalms) is the last one included in the book of Psalms.  It reads...

Praise God in his holy house of worship,
    praise him under the open skies;
Praise him for his acts of power,
    praise him for his magnificent greatness;
Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
    praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise him with castanets and dance,
    praise him with banjo and flute;
Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
    praise him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!
Psalm 150 (The Message)

David and Maria von Trapp both remind us to listen for the music and make the music.  Our God loves to hear us sing - even if we're off key.  God finds joy in our praise.  So go grab your banjo, cymbals, big bass drum, and 76 trombones (a tribute to another cinema classic) and ready your voice!  Praise God.  Sing to God.  Let the hills resound with song.


First Words

"Call me Ishmael."  With those three words, Herman Melville began his epic novel - Moby Dick.  Those words set the tone for a story of a man.

"In the beginning God."  With those words, the writer of Genesis, inspired by God, began his epic account - The Bible.  Those four words set the tone for a story of God.  Yes, the Bible is full of accounts of men and women, boys and girls, and even donkeys and large fish; nevertheless, the Bible is God's story.  God's story because He inspired those men who penned it and God's story because it is all about Him.  About His plan.

God, before the beginning of what we call "time," set His plan of redemption in motion.  God invites the reader of the Bible into His story.  The Bible is the true record of His revelation of Himself to His people. 

One cannot come near to an understanding of the Bible and all of God's story without first stopping to read and ponder those first key words of introduction.  "In the beginning God" communicates . . .

- that God is before all things.
- that God is in control.
- that God is.
- that God was the first to act.
- that God was the Creator of action.
- that God created.
Begin with those four words and they will prepare you for the remainder of the most epic of all epic writings.  In the words of the late Eugene Peterson . . .
"First, God.  God is the subject of life.  God is foundational for living.  If we don't have a sense of the primacy of God, we will never get it right, get life right, get our lives right.  Not God at the margins; not God as an option; not God on the weekends.  God at center and circumference; God first and last: God, God, God."


But With God

Love fills the air as Sweetheart Candies and chocolates in heart-shaped boxes exchange hands.  Bear balloons and rose arrangements are grasped as doorbells ring.  Valentine's Day arrives once again.  Some will be hugging; some will be kissing.  Others will be saddened by missing - missing the loved one who is no longer by their side. 

Valentine's Day brings many emotions.  Other days do, also.

One such day occurred for an inquisitive man who approached Jesus.

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 
Matthew 19:16

As the conversation continues, the man hears Jesus' response to his follow-up question inquiring as to which of the commandments he should keep.  Jesus said . . .

18 . . . “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony,
honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Matthew 19:18-19 (NIV)

Upon hearing those words, the emotion of joy filled the man; he even experienced a bit of pride, I trust.  Yet the joy would give way.

When the young man heard this, he went away sad . . .  Matthew 19:22 (NIV)

Why the sadness?  Because he was wealthy and Jesus had just told him that in order to follow Him, he must sell his possessions.

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Matthew 19:21 (NIV)

Why did Jesus demand such a sacrifice  We reason that, for that man, wealth was a barrier keeping him from following Jesus.  Barriers of many types hinder the way of would-be disciples.  Whatever they may be, the one who says, "come, follow me" offers a way to knock them down.

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:25-26 (NIV)


Pig Stories

For the first time since 2007, according to the traditional Chinese New Year calendar, the animal for the year is a pig.  As one who knows very little about Chinese culture and one who places absolutely no value in the zodiac signs, I will pass on dedicating a year to swine.  I will, however, devote this day's blog post to our pot-bellied friends.

When I hear talk of pigs, three stories come to mind - two fictional and one historical.
- Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
- The Three Little Pigs by James Halliwell-Phillipps
- Jesus Casting out Demons by Matthew (and Mark and Luke)

Focusing on the latter story, I must confess that piece of inspired text puzzles me greatly.  I relate to the words of the late Halford Luccock, a professor of homiletics (preaching).  He wrote, "This story of Jesus' conjuring the evil spirits into the swine had best be left to the exegetes" (Interpreter's, p 715).

While things turn out pretty well for White's Wilbur and Halliwell-Phillipps' third pig, all the other pigs meet their demise from either the teeth of the Big Bad Wolf or the fall from the Gadarenes region's cliffs.  

The fable's less-than-bright pigs teach us the value of diligent work. 

But what do the pigs of the Bible bring to our attention?  We believe that the answer lies not with the pigs.  We fix our focus rather on the two demon-possessed men and then notice the one reaching out to those violence-prone men.  There stands Jesus.  Jesus sees past the violence and the external and internal filth of the tomb-dwellers and sees two men in need of restoration and love. 

I thank God that He continues to see past violence and filth.  As the Year of the Pig (whatever that means) begins, recall not the cliff-diving swine; instead, praise the Lord who restores and loves and keeps us from a fate far worse than falling off a bluff.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (NIV)


Luccock, Halford E. The Interpreter’s Bible. Ed. George Arthur Buttrick. Vol.7. New York:   Abingdon, 1951.