the third thief; after easter 3

18 Apr

the third thief ; after easter 3

Luke 23:39-43 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

Corinthians 9:15 New International Version (NIV)

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift

Jesus is the third thief among these two confessed thieves. He steals our lives from back from the evil one. He is giving his earthly life to cover us, to lavish us as our prodigal, extravagant Saviour with his indescribable gift: eternal life in his kingdom.

It is an unimaginable, indescribable gift. It is His life for ours. A glorious gift and theft.

Bilbo Baggins is a type of this giving, thieving Christ.

Bilbo Baggins, the creation of J.R.R. Tolkien, is a hobbit. A usually quiet, sedate creature, he is caught up in a wild adventure along with the Wizard Gandalf and a troop of Dwarves to seek out some treasure. To prove himself as a burglar to the disbelieving Dwarves, Bilbo makes a bold move: he will steal treasure from Smaug the sleeping dragon. Here Tolkien describes the theft:

“Then Bilbo fled [with the cup]. But the dragon did not wake – not yet – but shifted into other dreams of greed and violence, lying there in his stolen hall while the little hobbit toiled back up the long tunnel. His heart was beating and a more fevered shaking was in his legs than when he was going down, but still he clutched the cup, and his chief thought was: “I’ve done it! This will show them. ‘More like a grocer than a burglar’ indeed! Well, we’ll hear no more of that.” ‘(12.17)

Bilbo steals for the approval of dwarves. This is what motivates him and drives him to perform. It is what Bilbo serves and risks his life for: he worships the idol of being a people/dwarf pleaser. In doing so he becomes a thief.

Dwarves, on the other hand, worship gold, treasure and earthly wealth. They risk their lives (and some will die on Lonely mountain by tale’s end) for these riches.

Smaug, the menacing and sleeping dragon, has still another master— greed: ‘Dragons may not have much real use for all their wealth, but they know it to an ounce as a rule, especially after longpossession; and Smaug was no exception. He had passed from an uneasy dream (in which a warrior, altogether insignificant in size but provided with a bitter sword and great courage, figured most unpleasantly) to a doze, and from a doze to wide waking.’ (12.20)

Smaug is a hoarder, a counter. He knows the price and whereabouts of all his possessions. This is what he lives for: power in long possession. He can’t use the wealth. But wealth is his power source and what he worships.

Each of J.R.R. Tolkien’s creations seek life through power: power of approval from others; the power of riches and the power of possession. None can be generous as they are controlled by power. The Dwarf King Thorin and the Dragon Smaug die in their desires. Only Bilbo lives. How?

Much later in his life Bilbo gives away his treasured possession—the Ring of Power- to his orphaned nephew Frodo. It is only by giving earthly power away can Bilbo sail into the eternal life in the lands of the elves at the narrative’s close. So…

What are we to do in light of God’s indescribable gift?

Give up power, or any desire for power, as Christ our Gift lived. Again, let’s look to the apostle Paul.

In Philippians 2, The Message version, Paul writes,

‘if you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life…love each other …Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.’

Put yourself aside. Become like the Giver: love, give and extend helping generous hands. This is the only way to a fully loved life; to eternal life, to real power.

Give all away. All ways.

Note: a portion of the above material appeared in the Stewardship blog under Charles Osewalt.


after easter 3

13 Apr

On holding2 after easter 3

1 Corinthians 15

‘ …you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.’(bold, my emphasis)

Below is a reflection on how what I hold and what holds me makes my home. Paul tells the church in Corinth to ‘hold.’ They are told to hold firmly to the one home that can never be taken or withheld; the home that never, ever disappoints or hurts; this home is the ‘hands’ that reach and receive: the word of God. This is the only true home. And I have returned to this home after holding the following reflective, essential questions-

eq (essential questions) :

thoughts, questions on ‘holding’

what am I holding? what is holding me? Into whose hands have I placed myself? Into, into whose hands, to whom, will I (be) long to?

and then what am I withholding? what do I think, imagine, feel, sense, is being withheld from me ? And why is it being withheld?

finally, who holds me, who has held me in the past…who lets me deeply, deeply allows me to hold them

And, on, in my past ?

who held me firmly, lovingly? and today, and tomorrow!?

who shall hold me and I them?

my safe-home is where I can hold and feel held. Home.

His word holds as I hold. Hold.

rise 2

5 Apr

our risen Jesus of 1 John 4:19

We love fo He first
loved 1 John 4:19 the Message

“We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.”

We sing for He first sang over
us Zephaniah 3: 17 NIV

17 “ The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

We can pray as first prayed over and then taught
us prayers Luke 11: 1: 10

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:

hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.’
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.’
And lead us not into temptation.’

We meditate because He listens, He ears our breathe.

The Hebrew word behind spirit is ruach, and it means “air in motion.” It is the same word for “breath.” It also means “life.” Breathe is air in motion.

In John 3 Jesus tells Nicodemus: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You. must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit”

Our life, our birth, is breathe. He hears, gives: Jesus is the breathe.

We walk because He walks with, among all.

Galatians 5: 16-17

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”

We fellowship because He ate, sat, slept, thirsted with
Pharisees, sinners and disciples

Luke 7: 36-37

We laugh because He loved

We cry as He
wept over death
John 11: 35

‘Jesus wept’

We serve for He first
served us

John 19:30
“It is finished.”

He knows us; He feels us; He touches, breathes, understands me, us, better than we know ourselves

Jesus is closer to me than I am to

He rose for ‘better resurrections.’

Hebrews 11: 35

“Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.”


after easter 2, our risen Jesus

4 Apr

our risen Jesus of 1 John 4:19

We love fo He first

We sing for He first sang over

We can pray as first prayed over and then taught us prayers

We meditate because He
listens to our breathes

We walk because He walks with, among, all

We fellowship because He ate, sat, slept, thirsted with Pharisees, sinners and disciples and, especially, …me

We laugh because He loved

We cry as He wept over death

We serve,  for He first
served us

He knows us; He feels us; He touches, breathes, understands me, us, better than we know ourselves

Jesus is closer to me than I am to

He rose for us


2 Apr

his Robe, our clothes

Romans 13: 14

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ

Paul speaks of the ‘full’ armour of God in Ephesians 6. Worn on the outside of a light tunic, armour’s basic purpose is to cover and protect from attacks. In prison, chained to a Roman soldier, Paul had the time to pause and think of how this armour would protect a warrior.

But to walk daily, among people in a town or city, a tunic or robe would provide light flexible covering in the arid, hot Mid East. This is what Jesus wore as he walked.

It is also what the soldiers who crucified him gambled for,

The soldiers nailed Jesus to a cross. Then the soldiers gambled with dice to decide who would get Jesus’ clothes. The soldiers sat there and continued watching Jesus. The soldiers put a sign above Jesus’ head with the charge against him written on it. The sign said: “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

Matthew 27:35-37 NLT

(See also Mark 15)

His clothes were not torn or discarded. Armed soldiers desired, gambled for them.

And His robe especially,

His robe was almost certainly made by his mother; designed and woven for him as a young child to be given to him when he became of age to travel, to walk. It was her blessing for a loved child. Of one seam, it could not be ripped apart.

But our Lord’s body was shredded and torn, wounded and ripped. His clothing was not.


Paul tells us in Romans to be imitators of Jesus continually; to walk as he walked; to forgive as he forgave; to pray as he worshipped. It are to put on Jesus’ clothes because these robes and tunics are His coverings, His love.

Nothing can tear this , His love, His robe. Nothing can separate us from these clothes as they are more than our flesh itself. His love can never be torn from us.

As Paul states in Romans 8

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,

As Mary chose and designed her baby son‘s swaddling clothes and robe, so has He perfected clothes for us-clothes that can not be torn: Clothes of His love.

Wear His robe today.

hosannas 2

29 Mar

As Jesus enters Jerusalem the time before his death, he hears ‘Hosannas’ or ‘save’ us.

Hosannas can be seen as a pause, a lifting up of voices. This is what the people in the crowd are doing,

This is what the crowd, his disciples, and we do whenever we approach Him. We sing,

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Psalm 118: 25-27

I pray ‘Hosannas’ multiple times each and everyday. (The crowd does not cry one ‘hosanna’ but multiple ones.) It is my meditation of Him. and for Him in relation to me. Save me from bitterness, angers, resentments. Save me, especially, from myself.

I pause when I pray this way-

a pause…

Verse 8 in Psalm 138 defines the Lord’s purpose for me, for us, as enduring, a forever, love as a Selah. – A pause- a pause over me,


‘The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;

your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.

Do not forsake the work of your hands.Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;

your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.

Do not forsake the work of your hands.’ ESV

My purpose is in His hands, His loving hands. Hands that touch and hold. My purpose is to understand and know He loves me. It is a love that calls for ‘pause.’ The word ‘selah’ comes with the word ‘purpose in this Psalm. What does this mean? Wikipedia can help illuminate this usage,

From Wikipedia,

The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon shows that the main derivation of the Hebrew word selah is found through the fientive verb root סֶ֜לָה which means “to lift up (voices)” or “to exalt,” and also carries a close connotational relationship to the verb סָלַל, which is similar in meaning: “to lift up” or “to cast up.” The word סֶלָה, which shifts the accent back to the last syllable of the verb form, indicates that in this context, the verb is being used in the imperative mood as somewhat of a directive to the reader. As such, perhaps the most instructive way to view the use of this word, particularly in the context of the Psalms, would be as the writer’s instruction to the us is to

Pause (my emphasis) as we pray.

This day, everyday, try to pause in prayer – pause before, as , after you approach Him.

Lift, sing; pause for Him as He stopped and paused for you.



28 Mar

As Jesus enters Jerusalem the time before his death, he hears ‘hosannas’ or ‘save’ us

‘hosannas’ can be seen as a pause, a lifting up of voices

This is what the crowd, his disciples, we do: we pause to see and we lift voices.

For myself each day, I pray ‘save me’ in accordance with thy purposeful love, thy mercy. I pray this multiple times each and everyday.

I ‘pause’ when I pray this way. This is my internal ‘hosanna’ -my prayer, a pause.

Verse 8 in psalm 138 defines the Lord’s purpose for us as enduring, a forever, love as a Selah. From Wikipedia,

The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon shows that the main derivation of the Hebrew word selah is found through the fientive verb root סֶ֜לָה which means “to lift up (voices)” or “to exalt,” and also carries a close connotational relationship to the verb סָלַל, which is similar in meaning: “to lift up” or “to cast up.” The word סֶלָה, which shifts the accent back to the last syllable of the verb form, indicates that in this context, the verb is being used in the imperative mood as somewhat of a directive to the reader. As such, perhaps the most instructive way to view the use of this word, particularly in the context of the Psalms, would be as the writer’s instruction to the reader to pause and exalt the Lord.[4]

The NIV has ‘Selah’ by ‘purpose’ in Psalm 138 In the the Hebrew

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;

your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.

Do not forsake the work of your hands. ESV

For me it is an instruction ‘to pause and ‘lift’ voice

advent 2017, an epilogue-Boxing Day

26 Dec

advent epilogue 2017, His touch
my deep darkness, His glorious light 
NAS 1977  “For behold, darkness will cover the earth, 

 And deep darkness the peoples  But the LORD will rise upon you, And His glory will appear upon you.”- Isaiah 60:2

My life was covered with darkness from my birth. A unexpected twin, my mother emotionally overwhelmed at my and my brother’s birth, kept one for the first six months of our lives and gave the other to her sister to care for. That other was me. My mother and I never bonded. I left home at 17 to live.
All of our lifes are broken, ruptured, in disrepair. Deaths; divorces; ill health; social inequality and global injustice ; environmental distress – all these touches all. This, our darkness, my darkness, deeply covers. It especially touches me at this Advent, Christmas time- a time of year of less light. The lack of light during this season always makes me more sensitive, more open to deep darkness.

Yet, from Asian culture and His word, I am washed, covered, and touched. The story of the Japanese art form of “Kintsugi” comforts,

“Kintsugi (金継ぎ, きんつぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い, きんつくろい, “golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. “(Wikipedia)

Isaiah speaks not just of the dark but of as ‘deep darkness.’ He gives us this image in an attempt, as blind John Milton in his description of hell, to make ‘darkness visible.’ (Paradise Lost)
Deep darkness in both these texts is absence- the absence of Light, hope, life and especially of God’s felt presence.

As he does at the end (Isaiah 60: 2); the middle (Isaiah 45:7), Isaiah weaves deep darkness in beginning of his work,

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

My darkness is with me all the time.  Yet, so is my Jesus.

Jesus is my, our, life. His coming is celebrated this time of year by gifts of value for those we value: we give gold as Magi to bless and heal; to touch and be touched; to love those who are hurting.

Today in the U.K. and other countries is “Boxing Day.” It is a day of rest and reflection. Of rethinking and refeeling. A day to put aside darkness and be in light.

My daughter who lives in Florida asked me why is this day called ‘Boxing Day.’ While none are sure, the best story is that on this day in Medieval times the Lord of the Manor placed gifts of food and coin for the servants and poor of the estate to bless and honour them. 
These small boxes must have been like a Magi’s gold: threads of glorious light for those without in this in deep darkness. 

Today, plan in the coming days, weeks, months or year to give a box of gold to another: a word; a gift card; a smile; a hello. Without a judgement. Perhaps, receive a present without thinking yourself unworthy. Perhaps, even plan to give to yourself some self care.

But give and give with life, His light. 

His prayer filled touch

23 Dec

His prayer filled touch
In Luke 1:37 ‘Nothing is impossible with God’ (NIV) is spoken by the Angel Gabriel in response to Mary’s troubled query on how she, a virgin, can be with child.
In Mark 9:24 ‘ …all is possible for he who believes’ (NIV) is Jesus’ response to a crying troubled father. 
Jesus’ response in Mark 9:24 echoes the Angel Gabriel’s response to Mary-how? 
Both Jesus and Gabriel, who have been with the Father from the universe’s beginnings, speak to the broken hearted, the deeply troubled, about faith and trust. They, who have been with God the Father from the beginning, know that no word, not a groan or syllable to the Father can not be filled. They speak of what they have seen, touched and experienced. (As John speaks on in 1 John 1)
As eyewitnesses, they testify to the truth: He hears and answers as our prayers touch Him. Jesus and Gabriel tell those who are hurting, questioning or one thing is truly nesseart to touch God: pray. 

When the father in Mark brings his son to Jesus for healing of a possessing spirit. He asks Jesus have ‘pity on us’ and to ‘help us …if you can’

Jesus replied, ‘if you can? …all is possible for he who believes.’

The father speaks in this ‘exclamation’ 
‘I believe, help my unbelief.’ His language switches from using ‘us’ in his first plea to ‘the use of ‘my’ here. 

Because the father of the possessed child is praying. Now it is personal for the father; it is about his personal response to Jesus. 

The father’s crying out here is prayer. The word describing the words and the person of the father is ‘exclamation.’
“Exclamation” (NIV) should be translated as speaking in tears, a cry. He is crying over his unbelief. Unbelief can be seen as a defective, a flawed, a weak faith. And if unbelief stays unspoken, unshared, it would remain so. Yet moved to tears the father speaks it to Jesus. And by bringing this weakness to Jesus he and his son experience healing belief. He comes to Jesus, torn hurting, un-believing, and yet, paradoxically, also a believing man. 
Mary’s response echoes the Father’s- She is ‘the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you said.’ Luke 1: 38. May it be to ‘me.’ It is now very personal to her. Jesus is to be her child, her son.

Both submit their hearts and doubts; their belief and unbeliefs, prayerfully to Him. And  new life is borne out of the father’s unbelief as his son is healed (Jesus lifts him by hand and restores him to life) and global, eternity saving life comes from the child Mary is to carry, this same spirit healing Jesus.

 Questioning, troubled and hurting people here pray. And their prayers are answered with life. Everlasting life. Belief. 

I am these people , hurting, troubled, believing and awash in unbelief. Their beautiful prayers are also mine- ‘I believe – help my unbelief.’ They model my struggle of belief and unbelief. And they tell me who to take this struggle to: Jesus.

In Mark’s gospel, when Jesus debriefs His disciples on why they couldn’t exorcise the unholy spirit, He tells them that this type of spirit can only come out through prayer. Prayer. 

That is all that is truly needed – a weak, crying, humble prayer- the prayers of a broken man, a loving father, or mother; a prayer that is ever reaching out to Jesus. 
This season: believe; yet if needed, state your unbelief. Prayerfully question and then reach for Him, as a child reaches for a parent. He will touch, reach back, in return. Whether by an Angel, a person, a father or a child, he will respond.

advent 3, to touch His word, His flesh

18 Dec

The Incarnation of the Word of Life
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life,which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard,so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete. 1 John 1: 1-4

A woman I work with believes that where a tattoo is on a body clearly indicates the possessors’s age. Millenniums favour the leg and ankle area; baby boomers arms, and especially for men, chests. People desire to see words on flesh; they desire to have their words touch, join, become part of their flesh. Their desire is for the eternal; for words that will last beyond flesh. 

Advent is, as John tells us in his letters and gospel, when we reflect on God’s word becoming flesh. John tells us that his ‘eyes have seen… and our hands touch’ the Saviour. 

Jesus was sent in the flesh; a metaphorical tattoo for all to see, read and possibly to wear on our hearts and minds. We see and holdin our mind’s eye a baby; and a child in a temple; a teacher, a healer and on across, our Saviour. His life story is the words we internally wear and live for. John can’t stop feeling Jesus in his eyes, his hands and his heart. Why?

Because Jesus takes on flesh in the end to cover our sins. He comes to express in words the Father’s, the Spirit’s and His love for us.  He weeps at Lazarus’ death because He loved His friend so; and then Jesus’ words calls Lazarus forth; He touches the Samaritan woman at the well by sitting and speaking with her; He speaks words that heal, instruct, direct and encourage. His words are loving touches for us. They are joys. He is the word made flesh; a flesh to speak.

This season share His life; His words; a part of His touch, with another. You will make joy on, and into your world as you do.