Paralytic Point   2 comments

A verse jumped off the page at me in Mark 2 this morning. The story of the four men bringing their crippled friend to see Jesus is one of those classic tales that is told in early discipleship teachings. Rightfully so, too, as it is a great visual for children to learn of how much Jesus loved the man and healed him. It is also an early look into how the teachers of the day would challenge Jesus because of the forgiveness of sins issue Jesus raised to their objection. There’s another hidden treasure embedded because the man got up, picked up his mat, and walked away. Carrying one’s mat on the Sabbath was also breaking the law.

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What jumped at me today was not the additional tale of the crowd size. The house was filled to the brim and even at the door (and I’m assuming windows) crowds were gathered to hear Jesus. Why? What was he doing? Did they all know about the mat and roof story that was about to happen? Nope!

Between describing the crowd and the introduction of the crippled man and his companions, the text simply says this, Jesus was preaching the word to them (Mark 2:2). That’s it. He wasn’t healing the lame or the blind or the deaf. He wasn’t performing other miracles of any kind or even magic tricks. He wasn’t glowing in the dark and telling people to pray to him. He wasn’t turning water into wine (I’d follow him around for that-just kidding). He was preaching the word to them.

Overlooked a lot in the teachings about Jesus today is how much he preached. The stories and healings and miracles and dialogues are rich with messages to share, and they should be shared. But we see more than a time or two in Scripture that when he is out and about he is teaching and preaching, “as one with authority.” His preaching was powerful, penetrating, unique, bold, and obviously engaging to have so many come from all over the place to hear him.

Maybe I should ditch my scrolls of questions about how things are done when I get to heaven and just do the Mary thing – sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him teach. Perhaps that’s the point.

Lonely, or Perfect?   Leave a comment

Mark’s first chapter indicates a couple of times that Jesus went to lonely or secluded places.

The first reference is that Jesus got up early and went to the wilderness, arid, a lonely place where he could pray. Morning quiet time is what works best for me. What about you? Any other time of day is far too difficult because my mind has already hit overdrive later and is challenging at best to bring to a crawl for a sound, fulfilling time alone with God. It isn’t impossible, just hard to achieve for me.

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The other reference is when Jesus was simply trapped in place by large crowds. Of course he had the compassion to heal them all and cast out all of their evil spirits, so he would do so (and I’d say) with great joy. But this was overwhelming for his human capacity, so for any kind of rest or opportunity to spend time in prayer, he had to go to secluded places. Seclusion is an intentional separation where you are either running from something or being forced somewhere not of your own will.

Seclusion has negative connotations. Loneliness can be similar, but in this case, it is an intentional choice. For me it would be to say that each morning when I get up and around and have my cup of coffee that I have my quiet time because it is mandated, a command, an order. If it is something I have to do, my motivation is decreased greatly. If it is something that I want to do, desire comes easily.

Where I go for my quiet time is in the peaceful setting of my home office. I say peaceful simply because early in the morning it is very quiet. I’m literally surrounded by work opportunities but ignore them for this sacred moment. I’m up long before my wife and can read and meditate, using candles to set the mood if I like or low lighting. I’ll read Scripture and poetry and then open my laptop and write in this journal. Often, my prayer itself comes through these moments without the traditional-formal closing of the eyes and bowing of the head. In here, in this time, I am in the arms of God, sipping coffee and enjoying the presence.

It is a lonely place, but I’m anything but alone. That makes it perfect!

Multiplication   Leave a comment

I’ve been reading the book of Matthew this month. This morning’s nourishment included the story of the feeding of the four thousand, a story Matthew mixes in (Ch. 15) not long after the story of the feeding of the five thousand. This is a love story in many ways, but it is also an easy math problem.

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Only men were counted when determining crowd sizes. Lord knows how much we need to have those detailed, accurate counts. I still cringe when talking with Pastors and hearing them talk about crowd size when asked about their church. Some have detailed systems that help them know with certainty. Some have parking lot scholars who calculate 2.5 people per vehicle to determine numbers. Some just eyeball the room and give their professional estimates, sometimes numbers that are even higher than the building’s actual seating capacity. After all, they’re bound to be asked during the week, “How many did you have?”

Jesus and the disciples were with a crowd of four thousand men, but if you do the math I’ve seen you should calculate that each man would probably have a spouse and perhaps a child or two or twelve, so let’s say 4 x 7.5=30,000. See how ridiculous this gets? He takes the seven loaves and few fish, blesses them and starts breaking them apart. We know the story of the miracle of how everyone was fed and there are seven baskets of leftovers, the number of perfection, carry the 3.

What strikes me this morning in this story is what happens when God blesses something. Whatever blessing it is seems to be multiplied. I like God’s math! When we read some of the healing stories we see not only the miracle of ailments being cured, but bonus health being added. Think of the paralyzed man (Mark 2:1-12) who was brought by his four friends who lowered him through the roof because they loved him and a good home improvement project. Jesus did more than heal his motionless condition, but he also forgave his sins. Then he added an extra bonus miracle of giving the man so much strength he could get up and walk home carrying his own math. No atrophy here!

What do you need God to do for you today? Jesus reminded us to ask in his name and we will receive. We do not always receive the thing we believe we need the most, but what we receive is always God’s best for us, even if that is an increased sense of God’s presence through our life’s storms. That last statement may seem patronizing, but it’s real. What is most beautiful about it is what this story of the four thousand is all about—when God dishes out God’s goodness, multiplication will likely be involved!

Posted January 25, 2021 by David N. Peppler, Sr. in Uncategorized

I’ll Race Ya!   Leave a comment

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I’ve been reading Matthew 14 this morning and experiencing the story of Jesus walking on water. For me, today, this story is all about Peter walking on water.

First of all, what gave Peter the guts to even ask the question. Scared out of his wits like all of the other disciples, he heard Jesus’ voice. It sounds like a great deal of faith because he asked the ghost to do something he knew only Jesus could do, even though he hadn’t seen that trick before.

Then, he actually attempted to do what the ghost told him. Guts isn’t strong enough a description to describe what he displayed here. The man decided to leave the safety of the boat in a storm and see if he could stand on the water, let alone walk.

But he did, and walk he did too. Sure he lost sight of the moment and started to sink and needed Jesus to rescue him. I’m terribly positive that I would have done the same thing except I have doubts I would have worked up the courage to talk to a ghost then follow its command to get out and walk on the water. If I had made it that far it would have been an indication that the evening’s rum was delicious and plentiful.

All of this reminds me of the book and movie The Shack. There’s a scene where the main character and Jesus were walking around a pond and they get to the water to go back to the house. Jesus starts to walk across the water but the guy just looks at him like, yea right!

But Jesus gives him the ability (been a while since I’ve seen this so forgive forgotten details) to walk on the water so he tests it out and sure enough, there he is walking. So with a childlike eager look, he tilts his head toward the house and smiles. The next thing we see is these two racing across the water—a scene of incredible joy.

It was a stunning scene for me since it seems very much like something I can see myself doing. I’m sure the local fishermen would not appreciate the noise of the running, but I’d make a mad dash, laughing all the way.

It really feels like a look into heaven for me. No more horrible knees. No more pains of a sore back or stiff neck or arthritic hands. It’ll be like being a kid again with no worries—I’m taken care of. This is definitely the place I want to be, even if I admit to being completely clueless as to what it looks like from this side. All I know is that God is there while also being here. I can live with that!

So the next time I experience a storm in life, those pesky inevitable storms that come, I hope to remember this scene and this feeling. Maybe Jesus will give me the opportunity. It will bring me overwhelming joy to point to the opposite shore, give him that look, and say to him, “I’ll race ya!”

Posted January 14, 2021 by David N. Peppler, Sr. in Uncategorized

Gyon   Leave a comment

I have no idea if I have spelled it correctly. I also have little faith that it is an actual word. All I know is that I have heard it a lot over the years, and to this day I am unsure what it means. Language and dialect tend to do these things to us. They separate us and cause us to look at each other differently, sometimes cocking our heads and wondering what on earth the other person is trying to communicate with us.

For example, my Aunt Joan was notorious for using this word, “gyon.” She pronounced it (as I have heard others) much like it is spelled (or at least my attempt at it): a hard “g” followed by “yahn.” She used it much where I would use the word “darned.” If I wanted to know where something was and she was unaware, she would reply, “Gyon if I know.”

I remember countless times asking her what that word meant. Mind you, I would often get the same statement in response, “Gyon if I know.” This is not helpful. I can imagine the day of Pentecost where all of the disciples were speaking languages unknown to them. The people were justifiably amazed at this. There were rumblings among the people, some saying the disciples were drunk. My imagination does not have to work hard to visualize my aunt as one of the disciples that day. I can easily see someone coming up to her and asking how she is speaking in their language. I can even hear her voice as she would utter her response, “Gyon if I know.”

Bless her heart.

What was true when I was growing up is still an issue in some churches today. There is a language barrier between those who have been in church all of their lives and those who are just beginning to explore what church is all about. Church folks will use church words and the explorers just scratch their heads and wonder what language they are hearing or question if they’re still in the same galaxy when they walked through the front door that looks strangely like some portal. They came in, sat on our hard benches, and noticed how some folks appeared to not get “bleacher butt” like they did because the “from here” folk were used to the discomfort. Then someone spoke from a podium with thees and thous and confused the heck out of their children.

I suppose that I will never understand how and why some of God’s really good folks insist on speaking a language that other folks–especially those seeking something incredibly important–will never understand. But if anyone ever asks me why I think this is still the case in some circles, I know what my response will be.

Gyon if I know!