Yes, it is more common and accepted that we Christians should say, “Christ died for me,” but I’ve had an occasion this morning to recognize, in a significant way, that Christ necessarily sighed for me as well.

I owe this revelation to the Matthew Henry commentary that I picked up on sale at the now, or soon-to-be, closed Borders in Keene, NH.

Have you ever shared with someone something of profound personal grief, or sorrow, and that person’s response was not in words of sympathy or comfort but rather in the physical manifestation of sympathy: a sigh? The gentle, or even gross, release of breath and energy as though they have suddenly realized the burden of your pain on their own shoulders.

It’s been my experience that women show this expression of complete sympathy better than men, but it is equally powerful coming from both men and women. I hope you’ve experienced it. If you haven’t, I’m not sure I can describe it in a meaningful way, but it is looking into someone’s eyes when you share awful news and seeing them deflate because they care about you.

Now imagine the God of the universe doing that.

The eighth chapter of Mark tells of a deaf and dumb man who Jesus took aside and healed. While he was healing the man, he sighed. Imagine, or picture if you will, Jesus looking you in the eye and sighing with sympathy for your sorrows. Who better to understand or sorrow than Jesus?

I am humbled that an all-powerful and all-knowing God would be able to sigh with me; sigh for me. I hope to share His love by showing similar acts of compassion to those who need it.

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Bus service in Essex County, N.Y., will be free Friday in honor of Earth Day.

(Story found here: http://www.wcax.com/story/14493916/essex-county-ny-honors-earth-day-with-free-buses)

How about:

In honor of Good Friday, grace and forgiveness of sins will be offered free from now until the moment you take your last breath.

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Who among you didn’t want to be a Jedi when you grew up? Of course, most of us didn’t wait until we grew up to become Jedi, we immediately launched our Jedi careers upon our first discovery of the magical entity called The Force. So what if you were only 10 years old and master Jedi Yoda was over several hundred years old, we thought we could grasp all of the intricate details of being a Jedi master, too.

Well, I grew up (for the most part) and never did discover the ability to move objects with my mind. What I did discover was the real Force behind the universe that not only binds things together but also created all of those things in the first place (and it happens to also start with J): Jesus Christ

Read what John says at the opening I’d his testimony to the life and power of Jesus, the Son of God. John 1:1-18 ESV:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

If you’ve never learned about Jesus, may I implore you to meet Him and get to know Him. It may not be as cool as becoming a Jedi, but it will be infinitely more important.

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“I do love God and Jesus. And Jesus is my hope. And I love everything that God made.”

Picture credit: Malcolm Whitman (all rights reserved)

Videographer & Transcript: Daddy (Marc Whitman)

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A little while ago, I wrote a post titled Sound Doctrine.  I thought I would continue with Titus, chapter 2, which is where the earlier post got its name.  (Please keep in mind, these are just the musings of some one who desires to love God and be obedient, not a theologian.)

Paul follows up his command to teach sound doctrine with this command:

Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and endurance.  (Titus 2:2, NIV)

Is this part of teaching sound doctrine?  Is this complimentary to sound doctrine?  Perhaps I should look at defining doctrine before I go any further in order to make certain that I am clear with my understanding of the word.

This definition seems to be most applicable to the topic of church doctrine:

a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

The teaching of how men should behave doesn’t seem to me to be necessarily a doctrinal matter.  While it may be important and complimentary to sound doctrine, it seems that the behaviors listed by Paul in verse 2 are more of a response, or fulfillment, of adhering to sound doctrine.  Not being what I would consider an older man, I can’t address these behaviors from a personal perspective.  However, by a casual observer of human behaviors, I’ve watched enough older men in action to offer up a comment or two.

Be temperate

Again, I’ll start with a definition…

keeping or held within limits : not extreme or excessive (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Being well-grounded in his faith and with a long life of experiences, an older man is wise to avoid extremes.  Some of the most temperate men I’ve know have been those who have experienced the most extreme conditions especially in hardship.  I have found the men who have served our country in the military in combat are often the most temperate individuals I know.  Whether it is the difference between the chaotic pace of battle and the comparatively dull pace of ordinary life that helps to moderate a man’s temperament, I will probably never know.  What is significant to me is that men who are more temperate tend to be the men who more easily earn others respect.

Be worthy of respect

This would seem to assume that all (or at least most) behaviors in the past have been honorable, noble, or just plain right and good.  I suppose it means more than just the absence of bad behaviors, but it also means leading a life that is complete with notable actions that are worthy of respect.  Helping those in need, being of service to friends and neighbors, etc.

Be self-controlled

All of these characteristics that Paul is identifying seem intertwined rather than successive or exclusive of one another.  Knowing how to be in control of your human sin-nature is probably the least discussed behavior in today’s mainline churches (that could be because the concept of sin is very elusive, if not altogether absent, from said churches).  Even after a lifetime of learning to be faithful and obedient to God, Paul exhorts older men to continue in self-control.  This is somewhat encouraging to us younger men who are perhaps dealing with sin-caused struggles that are still new to us or have escaped our detection.

Be sound in faith

Yielding to Christ on a consistent basis results in soundness in faith.  Entering into and completing trials of faith typically yields a stronger faith.  Ultimately, it is God who provides everything that is good and our decision is simply to have faith by yielding to His perfect will.  Who better to emulate and instruct than an older man who has (likely) been through many of his own trials of faith.  Who, by patient instruction, can benefit his younger audiences (especially men) by sharing all of the ups and downs of each trial and bring them to life in a way that will encourage faithfulness even when all hope seems lost.

Be sound in love

God is love.  It is reasonable to expect a man of many years to have experienced so many different trials over the course of his life to become incapable of love the way God would have us love one another.  That is probably why Paul exhorts older men to be firm in love.  Love isn’t something that necessarily comes naturally to us as humans (especially men).  Practicing the love that God intended for our relationship with Him and with our neighbors is the only way to be sound in love.  And again, who better a role model of love than a man seasoned by the trials of life who has applied his knowledge of God’s ultimate love to every aspect of his journey.

Be sound in endurance

Endurance is persevering.

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:4, NIV)

It is refreshing to see some one who is not lacking in anything.  They are strong and they have a powerfully calming affect on those who look to them for guidance.  I realize that completeness will not be accomplished until we reside with Christ in the glory and splendor of heaven, but there are examples of older men who are certainly more complete, more mature, and more content than their younger brethren.  These men exhibit the nature of God even with their human limitations in order for younger men (and women) to have a more complete picture of who God is.

Even though Paul is addressing older men, it is easy for anyone to apply those commands to their own life.  This is what you are aiming for as a mature creation of Christ.  And who better to emulate the perfectness of Jesus than the men who have had a lifetime to experience His grace and goodness.

MW

You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1)

Unless you are operating on a higher theological plane, this verse from Titus seems to be straightfoward.  Teach sound doctrine.  You teach sound doctrine because you first know what sound doctrine is. 

Do our churches today know what sound doctrine is?

I have attended a number of different churches in my area over the past year and when I am able to put aside the trappings of each building, the worshippers that attend, and the persona of the leader(s) I find that can’t answer that question confidently.  What I find frustrating is that you would think that the Church (the bride of Christ) would have some universal elements that would permeate every church no matter where each congregation falls on the “political” spectrum.  And apart from the do-good verses, there seems to be little fundamental agreement on what constitutes sound doctrine.

Now, please note I am not a theologian but I consider myself to be well read and fairly intelligent (hopefully not thinking more of myself than I ought).  I also confess that the biggest disparities occur between so-called mainline churches and so-called fundatmentalist churches.  The differences between different mainline churches is minimal as is the difference between different fundamentalist churches.

Why the gap between mainline and fundamental?  Well, I have some basic knowledge and getting into the history of the widening of that gap is not the focus of my musings here.  What I wonder is this: is the doctrine of a church easily identified and is it sound?

What I’ve discovered is that the culture in which I live does not encourage casual discussions about church doctrines.  When was the last time I had a discussion about what was right and what was wrong?  Or when did I last talk about the implications of an absolute truth with a friend or colleague.  At this point in my life, I’ve found that I really need to do my homework to ascertain what a church’s doctrine is.  It isn’t always easy to glean a comprehensive doctrine from attending one service, reading a bulletin, and a trip to the church website.  Even denominational statements seem to vary wildly from parish to parish.  I know that it is important to do your homework no matter what the culture around me is like, but it seems to me that it would be helpful if the discussion of what is sound doctrine would take place outside of the church walls and I think it would enrich the community wherever it was discussed.

More to follow…?

MW