Things You Should Know About The Author Of This Blog: On A Scale Of 1-10…

I recently had this conversation with my son Nate.

Nate: “Dad, on a scale of one to ten, how important do you feel it is, for you to be right?”

Me: “Is there an eleven?”

I Don’t Know Who Jesus Is (I Just Did What He Said)

light of men John 1:4-5I Don’t Know Who Jesus Is (I Just Did What He Said) Continue reading

Things I Heard In Church: “…he despised people not like himself.”

Things I Heard In Church: “…he despised people not like himself.”

Jesus told a parable to some people who trusted in themselves for their own righteousness, a group who treated others with contempt. Jesus said, Continue reading

John The Baptist Grilled With Questions (And the information he withheld): John 1:21-23

am I a sinnerLast post on the gospel of John we saw how John the Baptist declared, “I am not the Christ,” and we discussed the benefits of recognizing that fact in our own lives. This post we’ll see John grilled with more questions and learn what information he withheld from his inquisitors.

And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:21-23)

Was John The Baptist Elijah?

They asked John the Baptist if he was Elijah, and he said, “I am not.” Have you ever thought this through? Because Continue reading

Love Like Jesus–Jesus and Competition

Jesus and Competition Love Like Jesus

Competition

Baseball Player Lines

The World Series is happening right now and it reminds me of a story I once heard from a Fire Chief named Dennis Compton. Like me, Dennis is a Cubs fan. (Please pray for us, and for the Cubbies as well.) And one year he was excited and filled with hope, because the Cubs had this hot new player named Rafael Palmeiro. Palmeiro had just finished a close second to Tony Gwynn in the National League batting champion race, and it looked like his potential was off the chart. So what do the Cubs do? They trade him to the Texas Rangers. Well Compton was so upset about it, he telephoned the Cubs’ sports psychologist, who happened to be a friend of his, and invited him to lunch so he could find out just what in the world the Cubs’ management was thinking.

This sports psychologist had an interesting way of explaining the situation. He drew these lines on a piece of paper. Then he explained Continue reading

Love Like Jesus–Trading Recognition for God’s Glory: Matthew 8:3-4

Love Like Jesus God's Glory Recognition

Image via: dichohecho — Creative Commons

“Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone.” -Matthew 8:3-4

How Jesus Loved People:

Jesus healed the man with leprosy, then he told him in no uncertain terms, “See that you don’t tell anyone.”

How To Love Like Jesus:

Wow, is this the opposite of me or what! My human tendency is to want credit for what I do. One afternoon during a family gathering, Kathy was sharing with the female contingent of the Bennett clan, how I had done something nice for her on a recent Saturday morning:

“He brought me coffee in bed,” she said.

I, sitting nearby with the male contingent of the Bennett clan, happened to overhear. “Boy,” I thought to myself, Continue reading

Surrender Yourself to God: Joshua 1:1-7

Surrender Yourself to GodTonight was a great night. I attended a State Fire Chiefs Association awards ceremony where one of our crews was recognized for their efforts on the Oak Knoll, Ashland, Oregon Fire. The only problem is that I’m not available to write this week’s post. But God, in His grace, provided someone else to write the post for me. One of the people I admire most on the entire planet.

The following is a guest post by Don Bennett.

Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous…

Joshua 1:1-7

Joshua was truly honored to be chosen to lead the people of Israel into the promised land. What an incredibly strong endorsement. By this time, inspite of wandering in the desert for 40 years, Israel had grown to be 3 million strong. No sooner had they begun their trip to the promised land than they encountered the incredibly powerful fortified city of Jericho. Joshua sent 3 men to Jericho to find out what the situation was there. With the help of a woman who believed that the God of Israel was the true God they found that rather than come out and fight, the people of Jericho were going to hide behind the incredibly strong walls of the city. Most Christians know the story of God’s angel appearing as a warrior to Joshua and giving him instruction to lead the people around the walls 7 days in a row. On the 7th day they were instructed to have the priests blow the ram’s horn and have all of the people shout at the same time. As the song says, “…the walls came tumbling down.”

The next obstacle confronting Joshua and his people was the city of Ai. Without praying or consulting the LORD, Joshua sent several men in to assess the situation. They returned and reported that “This should be easy. They don’t look very strong.” They didn’t know that three Kings, who feared the Israelis, were allied with Ai. Because of this alliance the fighting forces of Ai were much more powerful than they appeared. Perhaps even more powerful than Jericho’s. Again, without consulting or praying, Joshua sent only 3,000 men to engage Ai and they were routed. The survivors came running back and told Joshua that they had been met with a powerful force. Joshua, being a man of the LORD, lay prone on the ground, covered himself with dust, and prayed for GOD’s forgiveness for his, Joshua’s, being so arrogant. God forgave Joshua with a strong warning to remember who the authority was and to check in with the LORD before going off on his own. Obviously, Joshua learned very quickly to respect the LORD and to be grateful for his blessings.

In my life, from an early age, I did not always respect authority, and I always found that there was a price to pay. Growing up in Kansas, sports were always very important to me. In the 8th grade I was the quarterback on our football team. We had a coach named Mr. Burnett. He was young and easy to relate to. In fact at that time, he still often wore his letterman’s sweater from Coffeeville College. One day he asked me to stay after practice to talk.

He first asked me how I was doing.

I answered “I think I’m doing pretty well.”

He asked, “Why do you think you’re doing well?”

I said, “I really don’t know.”

He said, “I know why you are doing well. God gave you the ability to run fast and throw a ball fast, but you have a problem. You will never become a better player and teammate unless you work at improving yourself rather than just relying on your God-given ability.”

I was crestfallen! But I really didn’t learn much of anything from our talk. Because Coach Burnett continued to allow me to play quarterback, I was still getting what I wanted and didn’t learn the lesson that it’s a good idea to pay attention to those in authority.

In Proverbs 24:21 God tells us, “My son, fear thou the LORD and the king…” Coach Burnett was my “king” but I didn’t fear or respect him.

After 8th grade, my father was transferred to Chicago, Illinois. I went out for football. The first day of Freshman practice, Coach Ritchoff blew the whistle and came up to me. “You can’t play quarterback because you’re left-handed.” I informed Coach Ritchoff that that did not make any sense at all. All that earned me was running 10 extra laps and I got switched to running back anyway. Obviously, I had not learned my lesson.

I was very fortunate to be born into a family of good Christians and at the age of 3 I was singing “Jesus loves me this I know because the Bible tells me so” with my Sunday School class. I still think that’s a good song. I have always considered myself a Christian but it was a long time before I got the idea of what it was to be a Christian.

When things were easy, and I did well, I was very quick to feel prideful and superior as opposed to thanking God for my successes. When things didn’t go well, rather than assessing my own performance, I usually blamed my failure on someone else or general circumstances. Obviously, unlike Joshua, I was not quick to understand that my successes were all the result of God’s gifts and my failures came about when I strayed from the word of God.

I have found that when I attend church regularly and continue to read my Bible things go very well for me.

Jesus came and not only died to wash away our sins but was the perfect example of humility and selflessness. It isn’t easy in today’s crazy world to follow the example which Jesus set. When we focus on His example and love God, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves, we find ourselves so busy helping others that we won’t have time to be arrogant.

…I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life… -Deuteronomy 30:19-20

[Image via: Andre Bohrer – Creative Commons]

Luke 1 — You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus

Photo by drproehl

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

…no word from God will ever fail.”

Luke 1:30-35, 37

There he sat in the lounge chair, snacking on munchies with his friends while watching one of his favorite movies. They were more than friends really. After working twenty-four hour shifts with these men, after saving lives with these men, after fighting fire with these men, they were his family. It always felt good to be around them. He was completely relaxed, completely at peace, and completely content when the bell went off.

“Beep, beep, beep,” the pre-alert sounded. “Structure fire, flames and smoke seen from an upper floor of a highrise. Address is…” As was often the case, the tone of the female dispatcher’s voice said as much or more about the call than her actual words. This wasn’t a false alarm or burned toast. This was a serious call.

He moved quickly and easily from the lounge chair and made for the apparatus bay where his fire engine waited. Like a mother duck with ducklings, the Captain unconsciously listened for the noises of his crew making their way to the engine. First running, then the sounds of his men donning their protective gear, then the sounds of doors slamming – one door, the driver’s, then another, then another. As he entered the cab himself he heard the engine start, he heard the bay door open as he looked down to zip up his turnout coat, then he heard the siren.

“8102 responding,” he said into the radio as he simultaneously pushed the responding button on his mobile computer.

“Do you know where we’re going?” he asked the engineer. As usual he did.

The headsets came on and one of his firefighters asked, “What do you think Cap?”

“Sounds like the real deal to me,” the Captain replied. “We could be first in. Be prepared.”

“First in.” First in had special implications. Incidents that start well usually go well. Incidents that don’t start well…

“What are we taking up?” one of the firefighters asked. The crew reviewed the list of equipment that they’d need to take with them: two inch and three quarter hose packs, thermal imaging camera, irons for forcible entry…

It was barely more than five minutes when they heard the dispatcher say, “Units responding to the highrise fire, we have a report of multiple trapped victims on the fire floor and on the floors above.”

“Copy,” the Captain said into the radio. His adrenaline was already pumping but this last bit of information felt like an electric shock.

They turned a corner and there it was: perhaps fifteen or twenty floors up, multiple floors well involved with fire. People hanging out of windows. He took the briefest moment to steel himself for what was to come, then he gave his report, “8102 is on scene at a thirty story apartment building with at least three floors well involved, possibly floors fifteen, sixteen, seventeen. We have victims hanging out of windows. 8102 is going to the lowest fire floor. 8153, it looks like we’ll need at least ten alarms.”

“Central copies, multiple floors well involved. 8102 we just received a report of a floor collapse on the seventeenth floor.”

“Copy, floor collapse on the seventeenth,” the Captain said. Then to his crew he said, “Let’s do it.”

They bailed off the engine, entered the building, and began making their way up the stairwell to the fifteenth floor. On their way up, they shouted and directed people to the way of safety.

“8102,” the dispatcher called.

“8102, go ahead,” the Captain answered.

“8102, we have reports of two more floors collapsing. It appears to be the fifteenth and sixteenth floors. We also have a report of fire showing on the roof.”

“Copy,” the Captain said trying to catch his breath enough to speak as he climbed the staircase.

“Cap?” It was his youngest firefighter, “Cap, are we going to make it?”

“We’ll save as many as we can.”

“OK but will we make it?”

The Captain knew they had to climb as far up into the highrise as possible. He knew he couldn’t save them all. He knew they’d have to save as many as they could.

And he knew they probably weren’t coming back.

“We’ll save as many as we can.” he said. The young firefighter could hear the determination in his voice…

Before Jesus was born into this world to save us, He enjoyed a wonderful and amazing life in heaven with the Father. He enjoyed a life that was filled with glory but He chose to forfeit all of that to come down to earth. (John 17:5) He chose to come in order to save as many as He could. He chose to come even though He knew it meant His own death.

Like the fire Captain in our story, what a devastating choice that was for Jesus.

But what a glorious choice that is for you and for me.

The fire Captain left the comfort of his fire station to go up into the highrise to save as many as he could, knowing that death awaited him. Jesus left His life in heaven with the Father to come down into the earth to save as many as He could.

Praise God in the highest for in spite of the terrible death that awaited Him, Jesus chose to come for you and for me, to save us, for God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)

Paul, speaking of Jesus, said,

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8

Thank you Lord for choosing to come down to save us.

Glory to God in the highest!

Merry Christmas!


References:

Bible Gateway

Jon Courson

Photo by drproehl

Genesis 2:18 — It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Genesis 2:18

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) Here we are in only the second chapter of the Bible and already God is declaring that it is not good to be isolated. God in His wisdom of course knows that isolation is associated with all kinds of problems. In fact, according to the Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, isolation as a predictor of mortality is comparable with cigarette smoking — your risk of dying increases by 2 – 3 times if you’re isolated vs. if you’re socially connected. Besides mortality — depression, illness, and a host of other problems accompany isolation.

Your spiritual life is also very connected to the dynamic of isolation vs. social connection. Just watch the lives of those who attempt to walk their Christian walk apart from attending church vs. those who do attend. Pick someone you know who says that their way of connecting with God is through the enjoyment of nature, or by hanging out with Christian friends, or by self study. Of course there’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but, at the same time pick another who you know attends church, say, 2 or more times a week. You’ll find the difference in the depth of relationship with God between these two to be striking. By and large, you’ll find the church goer to be happier as well. According to author and speaker Dr. Kevin Gilmartin, those who attend church regularly are 40% more likely to be happy than those who don’t. (See previous posts: Congregate and Rest)

“I will make a helper suitable for him.” God’s desire for Adam was to make a helper for him because Adam alone can’t live the blessed life that God has in mind for him without Eve. Furthermore man can’t execute his part of God’s plan for mankind here on earth without women. God gave Adam His plan and agenda, but both Adam and his wife Eve are to work together, as a team, to live out God’s plan and to advance God’s agenda. Adam, the husband, has been put in a position of leadership and Eve, the wife, has been put in a position of service. Not that Adam wouldn’t serve Eve because any great leader will serve those he leads. (Traveler and the Chaplain, p. 56), But Eve has been formally appointed, by God, to be Adam’s helper. In the world’s view this certainly has a negative connotation, but in Gods view, in Christ’s view, the helper is esteemed highly for Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said,

“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Mark 9:33-35



References:

Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

David Guzik

J. Vernon McGee

Jon Courson

Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine

Kurt Bennett, Traveler and the Chaplain, p. 56, Enoch Publishing 2009

5 Alarm Apartment Fire

My fire department fought a fire last night. It came in around 8pm as a fire in an apartment. When our first engine arrived there was heavy involvement on the first floor with significant extension into the second floor. When I arrived there was heavy fire venting from the roof. At that point I would have bet that we would lose another two or three apartments in addition to the original fire apartment. One of the occupants suffered smoke inhalation — she was treated at the hospital and released.

The Incident Commander and the firefighters who fought this fire did a phenomenal job. They confined the fire to the apartment of origin with some relatively minor water damage to the 2 apartments adjacent on either side. No firefighters were injured.

Leadership take-away:

One sign of good leadership is how your followers perform when you’re gone. The Medford Fire-Rescue Fire Chief was visiting family 1,000 miles away for Christmas yet his fire department did a great job handling a 5 alarm structure fire.

Consider the following excerpt from Traveler and the Chaplain:

Traveler said, “So my mission for God here on earth doesn’t end then after I die.  I’m supposed to grow future leaders to carry on what I’ve been doing while I’m alive.”

“Not just carry on but even exceed!” the Chaplain said with great enthusiasm.  “Look at what Jesus’ followers have accomplished since his death.  There are 2.1 billion Christians in the world today.  2.1 billion.  That’s a lot of fruit!  If you started counting Jesus’ followers out loud, one per second, after 31 years and 8 months, you would still be less than half way to finishing!  And of course during that 31 years and 8 months more people would be accepting Christ at an exponentially expanding rate.  So really, it would be impossible to keep up with the pace at which Jesus is bearing fruit for God’s kingdom.”

Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”