A Bike Ride - An Illustration in Leadership

Sometimes it is stressful to be a leader.

Isaac and I went on a bike ride yesterday. We had fun. We were going to ride our bike to a friends' house and eat some apples in his yard (ones that we were bringing, not stealing) and then ride back. The plan was flawless. We would get on our bike and drive down 49 (yes, that is the road that has semis on occasion) to the county road. From there we would make it to our friends' house, stop and eat, and come back home. As with many good things in life, we spontaneously stopped at my uncles' house and ate some pears that we stole off of his pear tree. At the time I thought their could be nothing greater experience in the whole world than picking a pear for me and my son, who could not reach one although he told me which one to pick, and eating it there together in the yard I used to play in when my Grandma lived in that house.

The ride was a reminder that God is great. What a privilege it is to ride down the road with my son on a beautiful day. Well, I did forget my silly hat that prevents me from getting too much sun, and I was wearing short sleeves. My dermatologist will definitely know that I have gotten sunlight. Part of me wonders if I really should obey her command to not get any sun. But I digress. It was a great time.

Anyway, the experience was perfect but stressful. As the adult, I needed to keep looking to make sure cars were not coming. I needed to inform Isaac when we needed to get off of the road.

It became even more stressful when we left our friends' house. We were sitting there, enjoying apples while his dog warmed up to us. We call the dog Nafai Jr. because he looks like our Nafai but only half the size. I would post pictures but nobody wants to see pictures of other people's dogs.

After the apples were devoured, we began to head back home. The dog decided to follow. I yelled, "Sit!" "Stay!" "Go home!" - anything that I could think of, but the dog would not listen. He was going to follow us home. I couldn't just shove him in my friends house because the dog might leave a mess. The chain outside had another dog on it, so I could not just chain him up. So Isaac, the dog we called Nafai Jr, and I began the ride back home.

As the adult, I had to now make sure that Isaac would not die and that Nafai Jr. would not die. I began to contemplate how we were going to get across the bridge on the way home. Hmm.

Nafai Jr. would sometimes stray into the middle of the road. Thankfully, I learned how to herd him with my bike to the side of the road before reaching 49 (the road with the semis). Then we began down 49. I was thankful that Nafai Jr. decided to run on the other side of the big ditch. He wanted to run down the middle, but he soon discovered that it was too muddy.

Then we got to the bridge. I still had not figured out how I was going to get us all across when Nafai Jr. ran down to the water to get a drink. I noticed that the creek was low and the dog could get across. I told Isaac to hurry up and get to the other side with me. He questioned my leaving the dog. I said, "I do not have time to explain everything we need to do to get Nafai Jr. across right now. I'll tell you later." He obeyed and we quickly rode across the bridge. Then we hopped off of our bikes and ran to the other side of the creek and started calling Nafai Jr., who mysteriously responded to his new name very well on the ride home. He had trouble making it up the creek wall. I thought I was going to have to get in and lift him up. It's crazy the things we are willing to do in a moment of "crisis." Anyway, just when I was going to get in, he hopped up and made it up the bank. Whew.

Our house is only about a hundred yards from the creek, so we had smooth sailing from there to our house. Nafai Jr. became an indoor dog, locked in our kitchen because he was the world's smelliest dog, for an afternoon until our friend came home from work. But leading him home was no bed of roses. It reiterated to me that in order to be a leader, even on a simple bike ride with your seven-year old boy, you have to be a servant.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me” John 13:1-20 (ESV).

A Midnight Clear - A Movie Dialogue

Midnight Clear
Midnight Clear is a movie about tragedy on Christmas Eve and restoring meaning to one's life after broken relationships or the difficulties of life. It is one of the most depressing movies I have ever seen.

Despite that, it was really inspiring. Today, I want to be more focused in my ministry on meeting people's small needs. The little loving acts are oftentimes the most meaningful. The youth minister in the movie had lost his focus; he was worried about being hip rather than real. That gas station owner was frustrated that he had made a dead-end investment when he bought the gas station and could not see a way out of his investment. A wife struggled with her vegetable husband. A man struggled with losing his job and not having any visitation with his children. A grandma faced the loneliness of old age and the abandonment of her children. It was a menagerie of loneliness and through it, Midnight Clear weaves an interesting story of these lives and deliberate acts of kindness and generosity.

From Kirk the gas station attendant:
You know, you think about that one thing you can contribute. What's my thing? That I make a good pot of coffee. Most of my customers don't care about gourmet coffee anyway; they want gas and a styrofoam cup of pennies by the register. That's about it.

In another conversation he stated:
My mom had a stroke...It's funny though. I'm grateful for that time. It's easy to take care of someone who gives back or says thank you. Taking care of someone who doesn't even know what you are doing. It makes you figure out what kind of person you are.

Each life seemed to be filled with meaninglessness. Because it was a movie, they were made meaningful through love and taking care of little needs, but it made me think that a little love can bring more meaning to the lives around me. Isn't that one of the true meanings of Christmas?

Midnight Clear deals with heavy issues of alcoholism, suicide, and Christmas caroling. It's a heavy movie, but aren't all movies that have Christmas caroling?

It receives one check off the entertaining barometer because the dialogue gets too corny at times. True, it might be realistic because my dialogue frequently gets corny, but I expect a little more out of a movie. It never goes overt about Christianity, and that made it an exceptional Christian movie rather than a sermon disguised as a movie.

Entertaining: 4/5
Inspiring: 5/5
Ethical Thinking: 5/5

Worth searching for and watching despite not being known.

Midnight Clear

A Response to "Intro and Question #1: Good News?" - The Struggle of Two Gospels - The Message of Jesus and Paul

A link to another article, Intro and Question #1: Good News?, was posted on my post, What Is Really The Good News Taught By Jesus? - The Gospel Is The Kingdom, and I just never noticed. Today, I began looking through old posts for a class I am teaching, and I saw the link in a comment. The timing of this discovery was great, despite nearly three years after it being written. It appears that Kelvin has since become a missionary in Venezuela to help bring about the Kingdom of God.

These are the thoughts I had while reading the article. They might not be disagreements; they are just my stream of consciousness. The thoughts are written in reply to his article and to him; hence the use of the word "you."

Romans 1-3 (especially when it states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God) is a proclamation that we can only be saved by grace. When you wrestle with whether we can be righteous or not, that is a different wrestling match than whether we can be saved by our own works or not. The latter is what Paul addressed in Romans when he wrote about us all being sinners. Jesus, at the end of Matthew 19, also touched on it when he was asked by the young man what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus pointed out that salvation was impossible for man yet possible with God. There are no works that we can do to be right with God; it is purely through his grace. As Paul said in Romans 3, God's grace is a gift.

Galatians 3 states that we were initially saved by grace and are continually made right to God by grace. When we think our works are what makes us right, even after we have been a Christian for many years, we run into the problems of pride and losing the blessing of God working among us. God does great things through the willing, not the prideful or "perfect."

You explained the two approaches to the Gospel in the following:

To sum up for side A, I see this as the message of salvation, which is true but not necessarily the gospel. Where I see it falling short is although there is a promise of love, peace, joy and new life, the emphasis is on snatched from Hell, wait for Heaven and don't do anything really bad till you die.

And what of Side B, pray tel? Side B relies heavily upon the life and teachings of Jesus, and not so much His death. After all, Jesus did do much more than just die. He lived: He was a little kid, He was a teenager, He worked, He learned a trade. Before He started His ministry, you probably wouldn't even have given Him a second look. In fact, He wasn't even physically handsome. (Isaiah 53:2). Once He began His ministry, He began with the poor. Many of the people that came to Him were broken, either poor, physically ailed, someone in their family had problems, etc. And, never, never once does Jesus ever turn away someone who is desperate for Him. He does turn away the pride and arrogance of the pharisees. Jesus even forgave sins of the people that came to Him . . . and He had not died yet to forgive them. Jesus preached the Kingdom of God while on Earth, and He said the prostitutes and charlatans were entering before the pharisees. He came to establish the Kingdom and He did. Its not something you can point to and say there it is, or here it is, rather it is within you. (Luke 17:20-21).

I’ve been wrestling with the two approaches toward the Gospel that you address, and I think it is a blending of the two that is true. Jesus is the entry to the Kingdom, but within the Kingdom is where disciples are made. You can substitute the word community for Kingdom, but Kingdom is great, albeit archaic, in that it signifies a community with Jesus as the ruler. The problem with the two gospels you address is that the one is good at making converts but not in shaping disciples. The other is good at shaping disciples but not good at making converts. That does not mean that disciples are not made in the one and converts are not made in the other; it just means that those two Gospels, when purely approached, do not naturally lend themselves to making converts in one case or disciples in the other.

If your goal is to transform the world, then many systems need to be transformed as well. If you are going to bring peace to the world, then wars need to cease; oppressors need to see the slave as their brother, not an object of hatred. If you aim to end poverty, you need to establish a just system of wealth and economics. How does Jesus address these issues? He doesn't.

I could not agree more. The goal of the Gospel is not to transform governments. Although I do believe a nation that consisted of Christians would steer toward being Christian in its policies, but that is not the goal of the Christian. We are focused on our citizenship in God’s Kingdom and the opportunities that being a follower of Jesus entails. In our life and our circle of ministry, we need to strive to bring about peace, justice, and an end to oppression. I am not worried about systems but hearts, mine included. I need to live at peace with those who attack me. I need to make purchasing, employment, and consuming decisions that do not proliferate this economy of oppression that we live in (and I am terrible at this). I need to live my life in such a way, along with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that we are an adequate representation of the body of Christ.

The body of Christ is such an amazing analogy. That means Christ is our head, but we are the body. The head sends us signals, and we are to do them. We are his hands and feet in the world. We bring about his will. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I think we do a disservice when we get this message confused with political activism rather than on the street love. I am not going to make a legalistic rule that there is never a place for political activism. I know that is not what I am called to. If someone else is called to political activism, who am I to say that they were not really called to that.

Transformation or peace corps can look the same.

I could not agree more. That is why we need to make sure that our transformative actions are rooted and expressed in and through Jesus. Many loving things can be done because of our love of Jesus, but we need to make sure that Jesus is proclaimed through our loving actions. Hmmm…I might even disagree with what I just wrote. Because if I love to just transform others’ hearts, then that love is manipulative. I need to make sure the love I express is an overflowing of the love that God has for me. It is not manipulative, despite proclaiming Jesus, because it is an overflowing of God’s love through me.

The Gospel that the Galatians had strayed from was a Gospel that included grace. As I previously mentioned, they were trying to say that works made a person right with God. Grace was the key omission of the Gospel in the case of the Galatians.

I think you wisely discern a difference between the Gospel Jesus taught to the Jews and the Gospel Paul preached to the Gentiles. The Kingdom analogy only works when one has a good grasp of the Old Testament Kingdom and God’s transition of that Kingdom from one of the nation of Israel to Cross-Nation Kingdom of people whose hearts are surrendered to God. In one sense, the Kingdom really is useless as a message to the non-Jew. However, it is still the concept that Jesus taught. To his audience, it was easily understood. The Jews were waiting for that new Kingdom to be ushered in by the Messiah. Jesus was at work transitioning the Old Testament Kingdom into a new Kingdom that had no partialities, hierarchies of leadership, boundaries, and concern in regard to the economic and political standing of the people that are part of it.

In the end, the key is that people surrender their hearts to God. The rest will fall into place after that. Although useful, whether a person understands the teaching of the Kingdom does not really matter. Teaching about the Kingdom is beneficial in that it focuses on us being a community under the King along with having a citizenship that is higher than our earthly citizenship. We are in relation to one another; that is an essential part of following Jesus. Too often, the gospel of just giving your life to Jesus for eternal salvation never really entails being part of the fellowship of believers. Teaching the Kingdom inevitably emphasizes that. Also, we must never compromise the Kingdom for our earthly nation. That is also an inevitable teaching of the Kingdom.

In the end, I find myself somewhere between a social gospel and a gospel of personal salvation. It is still working itself out. Thanks for your thoughts.

A Christianity That Is Not Real

In a Christian scene where spending time with God has been confused with praying in the morning and reading our Bibles, this post, The Bait and Switch of Contemporary Christianity, was refreshing.

"I need to spend more time working on my relationship with God."
I responded, "Why would you want to do that?"
Startled she says, "What do you mean?"
"Well, why would you want to spend any time at all on working on your relationship with God?"
"Isn't that what I'm supposed to do?"
"Let me answer by asking you a question. Can you think of anyone, right now, to whom you need to apologize? Anyone you've wronged?"
She thinks and answers, "Yes."
"Well, why don't you give them a call today and ask for their forgiveness. That might be a better use of your time than working on your relationship with God."

Take, for example, how Christians tip and behave in restaurants. If you have ever worked in the restaurant industry you know the reputation of the Sunday morning lunch crowd. Millions of Christians go to lunch after church on Sundays and their behavior is abysmal. The single most damaging phenomenon to the witness of Christianity in America today is the collective behavior of the Sunday morning lunch crowd. Never has a more well-dressed, entitled, dismissive, haughty or cheap collection of Christians been seen on the face of the earth.

Both of those paragraphs come with disclaimers directly after them explaining that he was being "provocative" and "exaggerating", so don't judge them until you read the whole article.

Back when I was working my way through college by being a waiter at Chi-Chis, I can remember the waiters and waitresses complaining on Sundays that the Christians were rude and cheap. And they were. I never thought about it in terms of our universal witness to hundreds of thousands of waiters and waitresses every week. I focused on working in their midst trying to present a different type of follower of Jesus.

His concluding thought was great:

I truly want people to spend time working on their relationship with God. I just want them to do it by taking the time to care about the person standing right in front of them.

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:36-39).

The Weirdest News Story I Had Not Heard - Gog, Magog, and George Bush

Did he feel hand of God?
Apocalyptic fervor may have held sway in White House

A French Revelation, or The Burning Bush

Now out of office, Chirac recounts that the American leader appealed to their “common faith” (Christianity) and told him: “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”

Recently, GQ magazine revealed that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld attached warlike Bible verses and Iraq battle photos to war reports he hand-delivered to Bush. One declared: “Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.”

Joseph Prince's Destined to Reign - A Brief Response to the Health and Wealth Gospel - How Should a Christian React to Tragedy

Right now I am reading through Joseph Prince’s Destined to Reign: The Secret to Effortless Success, Wholeness and Victorious Living.
I have a general policy to never live in a nation where the leader’s face is plastered all over the place. That policy extends to reading books. I really do not like books with a picture of the author on the cover. It creeps me out. Anyway, this book came highly recommended by a good friend and I am currently reading through it. It’s an encouraging book that deals with the grace of Jesus and living in that grace, a concept that we will be exploring more as we explore the teachings of Jesus and the Gospels in the next year. I would definitely pass this book on to anyone that needs encouragement, but with this caveat. Like many teachers of the health and wealth gospel, Prince, despite all of the positive teachings he brings to the table, does his readers a disservice. I agree with him that we need to be more positive in life, filled with the joy of the Spirit, live in grace rather than works, and that God desires to bless his children. What parent does not want to see the best for their children?

But we live in a fallen world with free will. The world is no longer what God intended it to be and we continue to live in sin.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
Notice that Paul did not write that all things will be good, that there will be no bumps in the road. No, Paul wrote that all things, whether good or bad, will work together for good. God is in the business of making good things out of bad. If he can have the earth squeeze coal and make diamonds, he can turn your difficulties into a better you.

Life is not a bed of roses, even for the most faithful. Our ministry at the Manor House, the only nursing home in Antwerp, reminds me of that truth every week. We might believe that the spiritual realm is more important than the physical, but that does not mean we can escape the physical without being physically destroyed. No matter how much we focus on the spiritual reality of the victory that we have, we will each physically die. If we live long enough, we will also have loved ones die.

I believe that God still heals; I believe that a positive attitude can get us through most obstacles, but I am also a pragmatist. Tragedy strikes everyone, and it is a disservice to the gospel to not temper the blessings of God and following him with the tragic reality we are all faced with. What makes a Christian is not living in this physical world without any strife or trouble. What makes us like Jesus in our approach to the world in responding to those difficulties with perseverance and seeking out God’s will through the troubling times. We can control, through the grace of Jesus, whether we let the world’s difficulties tear us down or whether we keep focused on living in his grace and his ultimate reality. The question we each face is how will we respond when loneliness, financial difficulties, broken relationships, health problems, or tragedy strikes. I pray that I will face those times with Jesus leading the way through.

Sunday Evening Service - What is essential?

When I was called to stay here at Antwerp, given the blessing of the leadership, and was making my rounds meeting with people in the church to talk with them about me being the minister at this church, I met with one individual. This individual presumed I was meeting with them to ask them to support the campus ministry I thought I was going to just a few weeks before. (Isn't it crazy how trying to follow God makes us appear wishy-washy at times?) [sorry for the somewhat bad grammar but I prefer to keep this gender neutral].

Anyway, when I sat down and began talking with this individual about staying in Antwerp to be the minister, they shared that they would not have been able to support me being a campus minister. This person's reason? Because I was not a supporter of the Sunday evening gathering. I did not attend it regularly, and I was on record as saying that it was no longer useful at meeting any pertinent goal.

So here I was, possibly going to minister to the most unreached segment of American culture, the college student, and this person would not have been willing to support that ministry because I did not participate regularly in the Sunday evening gathering.

What's important? Ministering to the most unreached people group in America or attendance at the Sunday evening gathering? There would be good reasons to not support me as a missionary to college students. One could think that I would not be capable of ministering to them. One could think that too much of the money would go to overhead in the organization I was going with. They could desire to send their money to another missionary. Or they could say that they just did not have the extra money to support a missionary at this time. There are legitimate reasons beyond those.

But I would say that one's view of the Sunday evening gathering should play no part in whether we support a missionary or not. I do not know the view on the Sunday evening gathering of any of the missionaries that we support. If we make our criteria go so far down the list of what a person believes as to include their view on Sunday evening gatherings as an essential, then I think we have made a list that is much too lengthy. What would not be an essential with such a lengthy list?

I could not verify it, but the following seems to be the only reason that I could find on the origins of the modern Sunday evening service. Sunday evening church was started in the late 1800s, early 1900s, because people wanted to sit under artificial light. It was a new novelty, and people were willing to come and listen to a Gospel message because of it. I would say, go ahead and start a Sunday evening service if it would provide a gate for people to hear the message of Jesus. Whatever we can do that is not compromising the Gospel and will allow us to share the message of Christ, we should do that. We are already doing those types of things all of the time; the question we need to ask is whether they are effective. If not, we need to discard them quickly.

Sunday evening service did not originally pop up, as many state, to give farmers who had to work in the morning an opportunity to go to church. Although that could have been the reason used in some communities to maintain the ritual. We no longer believe attendance in mass is necessary for one's salvation. If someone has to miss the morning service because of work, health, or some other means, it does not mean they cannot get plugged into a small group or a ministry. They can still be part of the fellowship in practices that actually provide fellowship.

Once a practice that is not an essential loses its effectiveness at drawing new people in, we should focus on the tried and true things, like bringing the Gospel to them through loving actions. Maybe inviting friends over to our house and sharing an evening of fun. Maybe going out and helping someone with the extra two hours we have saved. Maybe spend time playing games with one's family. Maybe spending that time in prayer. There are certain things that never lose effectiveness, and these should be the things we are primarily focused on.

Frank Viola quotes J.C. Ryle in the beginning of his book Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices:
Experience supplies painful proof that traditions once called into being are first called useful, then they become necessary. At last they are too often made idols, and all must bow down to them or be punished.

Losing a Grandma and Struggling with God - This Physical Facade is not Spiritual Reality - Death

I reacted poorly when my Grandma Jessie died. Like most people, I loved my grandma. She used to make the best parched corn, would crack walnuts for me, let me drink out of her old metal cup, pick cherries and raspberries with me, and give me butterscotch mints. Having grown up across the street from her house, I spent a few hours there most everyday. I took many naps on that couch on which this picture was taken. But after a long battle with melanoma, she died. Instead of growing closer to God, which she would have wanted, I hardened my heart toward Him.

I was fifteen when she died. I should have been old enough to handle it properly, but I didn't. Like many people who struggle with God after the death of someone, I had a faith that did not properly understand death and suffering.

My father shared with me a similar story of struggling with God over death. He had prayed for his father to stop drinking, but his father never did. He eventually died of liver problems when my father was twenty-one. From that point until much later in his life, he stopped living his life for God, a God who he felt did not answers his prayers for his father to be delivered from alcoholism.

Death. It's not just a destroyer of life; it can also be a destroyer of faith.

Two Sundays ago, Diane Schuler, 36, of West Babylon, New York, was driving her two children and her three nieces home from a weekend camping trip in Sullivan County when she inexplicably entered the northbound Taconic going south. While we were sitting around enjoying and sharing a meal with friends, tragedy destroyed two families.

The result was the worst accident in Westchester County in 75 years. Killed with Schuler were four children in her car and three men from Yonkers in an SUV. The only survivor was Schuler’s five year old son Bryan. Dead were Emma Hance, 9, Alison Hance, 7, and Kate Hance, 5, along with the driver, 36-year old Diane, and her two-year old daughter, Erin.

In the eulogy, Warren Hance, the mourning father of the three children, stated, “Love your children. Cherish your children. Kiss your children. And do not forget . . .” I cannot fathom his pain, and it’s seems almost shallow to say in his hurt, but Jesus would say the same message to him that he says to us during our struggles: “Stay faithful to me even through the pain.”

When the physical world around us does not equal spiritual truth, we need to never give in to the physical facade. Death will come. Jesus warned that his death would come (John 13: 18-19, John 14:28-29, John 16:1-4). John ended the book with the warning that his death would come (John 21:20-23). They both encouraged people to not lose faith because of death. The physical laws of this world cannot contain God. When Jesus died on the cross, the resurrection was not far behind.

The disciples did not have the hindsight after the crucifixion that the completed Gospel gives. Before the resurrection, physical reality controlled them. They were expecting a physical kingdom that would take over the nations of the world. They were expecting Jesus to be the emperor that united the world under the banner of Israel. They had forgotten that the warnings of Jesus concerning his death and the prayer in which Jesus taught them to pray.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught them to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). His kingdom is partly here and his will is partly here, but it is trying to break through more and more. Each of us should be about living in the spiritual reality, transforming the physical fa├žade around us into that reality as much as we are able. We need to live in the resurrection where the limitations of this world have no hold.

It took the resurrection and the Holy Spirit to give the apostles the boldness to stand firm and bring about about God’s kingdom and his will. After the crucifixion and before the resurrection, Peter denied Jesus despite faithfully following him and adamantly proclaiming him the Messiah before his death. The physical death of Jesus destroyed all of their dreams of what they thought was going to happen. Those dreams were crushed on Golgotha. But the resurrection gave these guys the strength to stand up for what they knew was right no matter what life threw their way. And tragedy would come their way. Church history teaches that all of them, save John, were crucified just like Jesus. John was exiled to the island of Patmos.

Jesus gives us hope, hope to continue on when life seems to say we need to quit. He warned us that life will not be a bed of roses. We need to live in the promise that “all things” will be worked out for our good (Romans 8:28). Better days are ahead no matter what we are facing.

At my baptism in 1988, my Grandma Jessie gave me a Bible and wrote this in the inside cover.

Dear Grandson Regan,

“Lo – I am with you always.”

With the right attitudes and God’s help you can cope with anything.

Train yourself to think spiritually with hope and optimism and enthusiasm.

Shape your life in His love.

Much Love,

Grandma Snyder

Poem - The Calf Path

The Calf Path
by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.

Since then three hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bellwether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bellwethers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made,
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ’twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed — do not laugh —
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again.
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet.
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare,
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed that zigzag calf about,
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They follow still his crooked way,
And lose one hundred years a day,
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move;
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah, many things this tale might teach —
But I am not ordained to preach.