Thursday, November 26, 2020

Matthew 12 - Part 5


Read Matthew 12

If you are at the top of the religious food chain, how do you deal with a man who is healing people like no one before him?  How do you deal with a man who can not be trapped by clever words, even if the argument against him seems solid?

What do you do with such a man?  If you are the Pharisees, you ask him for a sign.  Give us something that is unmistakably of God.   

Jesus told them that they would get a sign but that it wouldn’t be what they were hoping for.  As Jonah  was in the fish for three days, so Jesus will be in the ground for three days.  Jonah came out of the fish.  The implication is that Jesus would come out of the earth.

He would rise from death.

Jesus doesn’t waste the Jonah analogy.  He noted that the people of Nineveh who repented after hearing Jonah would stand in judgment of these religious hypocrites. 

Much as the unrepentant people of the cities where Jesus performed many miracles will be worse off than Sodom; so too these Scribes and Pharisees will be on the wrong end of judgment and delivered at the hands of those whom they scorned as ungodly.

You think that you have cleaned house and there is no evil in it, but because you have not made your house a godly one, evil will return with greater gusto than before.  The One who defeats evil stands before you and you are blind to see him.

You have rejected the One whom God sent to save you; yet, you have grown comfortable in your condemnation.

The same mindset that condemned the disciples for plucking grains from the field on the Sabbath made these religious leaders fodder for evil.  Redemption stood before them but they chose to continue in their blindness.

These leaders would continue opposing Jesus at every opportunity.  They were essential to get Jesus to the cross.  Jesus offered himself as the atoning sacrifice, but someone would need to put the elements of his death in motion at just the right time. 

Now we see what seems to be a strange reaction from Jesus when he was told that his mother and his brothers were nearby and wanted to have a little time with Jesus.

You might think that Jesus would have called time out for an hour to visit with his family, but that was not the case.  Instead, he asks:  Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?

Jesus wasn’t an orphan.  He didn’t have sometimers disease and couldn’t remember who his family members were.  He was on a mission from God—his Father.

Jesus pointed to his disciples and said that they were his family.  The ones who did the will of God the Father were his family.  God’s word sustained them and putting his words into practice not only makes them wise, but family as well.

When we take the yoke of our Master, we are more than disciples.  We are family.  When we learn from Jesus and put his words into practice, we are family.

Saying that we are brothers and sister in Christ isn’t just something cool that Christians like to say.  Jesus called us his brothers and sisters for we are seeking God and his kingdom and his righteousness. 

We have taken his yoke and we learn from him.  We put his words into practice.

We are family and that family belongs to the Most High God and will never be without him.  We stand in stark contrast to the self-righteous who would blaspheme God’s own Spirit by refusing to receive the truth when he stands before them.

It’s good to be family.


Matthew 12 - Part 4


Read Matthew 12

Jesus continued exposing the hypocrisy and short-sighted thinking of the Pharisees and those siding with them.  Remember when I said that I do not want to be on the other end of a statement that Jesus begins with Woe unto you…

I also do not want to be in the company of those he might call a brood of vipers.  You bunch of snakes, you forked tongue devils, you good-for-nothings--these are terms that I don’t want sent my way, especially by Jesus.

Jesus went on the explain the terrible thinking of the Pharisees.  If you want to rob a strong man’s house, then you had better have enough people to tie him up or you will be the one bound and sent off to prison.

A good tree gives good fruit and it can’t give bad fruit. A bad tree can’t produce good fruit.  These are not new concepts but Jesus makes direct application to the Pharisees.

How can you evil good-for-nothings think that anything you say is right or good or brings glory to God in any way?

It’s time to choose sides.  You are for me or against me.  If you choose the wrong side you will be scattered.  You won’t prevail.  It’s really your house divided against itself.

As bad as it seems to confront the Son of God, it is so much worse to reject the very Spirit of God.  You are in danger of coming out on the wrong side in the judgment because you are rejecting more than the One whom God sent.  You are rejecting the very Spirit of God.

For every religious person who thinks they have it all figured out but have rejected the heart of God in the process, the words of Jesus should hit home here.

For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.

Here is the short version.  You are with Jesus or you are against him.  There is no middle ground.  There is no fence-sitting.  It’s for or against, and no argument of man will help you if you picked the wrong side.

What words acquit us?  Jesus is Lord.  We believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died as a sacrifice for our sins, that God raised him from the dead, that he is with the Father in heaven interceding for us, but the coup de grĂ¢ce is our profession that Jesus is Lord.

He is more than the Son of God.  He is more than Savior.  He is more than redeemer.  He is Lord.

In those words, we are acquitted.


Matthew 12 - Part 3


Read Matthew 12

And so we come to—and I know you guessed it—the shores of Tripoli.  Most of you didn’t get this in your United States history class, so this will count for extra credit.  Have you ever heard of the Barbary Wars? 

United States Naval ships with a complement of Marines were sent to engage the Barbary pirates that were interrupting everyone’s shipping lane off of the coast of North Africa.

A lieutenant name Presley Obannon and about 6 Marines were assigned to capture the city of Derna, Tripoli.  That sounds about right.  One city one officer and six Marines.  That should do it.

It, of course, took a few more men than that.  Lieutenant Obannon recruited many locals to fill out his ranks and he did capture the city.  He needed a combat multiplier and he found it in the local population who had grown tired of their ruler.

There are other combat multipliers.  Air support, surprise, night attacks, and if you go back to the time of Napoleon, hilltop skirmishers would exhaust this French military icon as he moved at a snail’s pace fighting the British across the Iberian Peninsula.  These were combat multipliers.

Here’s one that tops them all.  Dissension among the enemy in his ranks or his government.  If the enemy can be divided against itself, how much easier is it for the advancing army to defeat them? Dividing the enemy against itself is the ultimate combat multiplier.

The people wondered if Jesus could be the Son of David.  Could he be the Son of God?  Could he be the promised Messiah?  He had healed and driven out demons.

They had seen what he had done and believed that such miracles could only come of God.

The Pharisees countered.  What he does is from Beelzebub.  This Jesus is casting out demons in the name of Satan.

Jesus countered.  You guys are terrible tacticians.  If Satan is attacking his own forces of evil, how can he withstand even the smallest attack from godly people?

The short version is that dog don’t hunt.

A house divided against itself cannot stand.  Jesus had already told these hypocrites that they missed the heart of God when they applied the law.  Understand that God desires mercy not sacrifice.  They didn’t get that part.

Now Jesus outed these high and mighty religious leaders as terrible battlefield commanders.  You should have been the shepherds of Israel, but you blew that.  Now, you are playing general and you are way out of your league.

A house divided against itself cannot stand.  Only by the power of God do these miracles make sense.  Jesus would take off the kid gloves in chapter 23, but he has given them a dose of what is to come.

Jesus is from God, of God, the Son of God, and doing God’s work.  There is no other explanation that works.


Matthew 12 - Part 2


Read Matthew 12

You remember the words his time had not yet come.  It was not time for the people to shout Hosanna and make him king.  It was not time for the religious hypocrites to send Jesus to the cross.  Jesus would go to the cross but only when his time had come.

Some received Jesus as a prophet or perhaps even the Anointed One.  Some thought that he just might be the Christ.

Others rejected him or simply chose to live in their comfort zones.  This whole business of repentance was not convenient.

But now, there was a group that was plotting murder.  Pharisees and other religious hypocrites saw Jesus as an obstacle to their way of life, so much so that ignoring the command against murder was incidental to what they thought the greater good.

Jesus retreated from one place to another but crowds followed him.  He would not take on the role of warrior.  He would not quarrel.  He would not riot and cause mayhem.  He would do what his Father in heaven sent him to do and one day, that would bring about justice.

Isaiah told the people what was coming, but the people had other expectations.  Jesus did not adjust his mission to fit the expectations of the people.  He stayed on mission. He stayed on task.

He continued to do what his Father sent him to do.

Think back to chapter 5.  Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them.  This was part of that fulfillment.

Jesus fulfilled this prophecy of the servant.  He would do everything to bring glory to his Father.


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Matthew 12 - Part 1


Read Matthew 12

We begin this chapter with Jesus and his disciples walking through grainfields.  It begs the question:  Were there no roads?

The disciples were picking a few grains as they walked.  Give it a couple thousand years and someone would invent the drive-through, but this was a walkthrough.  They would pluck a few grains and eat them.  Surely, the landowner would neither notice or care. 

He was probably more concerned that they didn’t trample the grain. Somehow the Pharisees saw this.  Were they in the grainfields or stationed on a nearby outpost assigned to watch every move of this man called Jesus?

We don’t know but the scripture says they saw the disciples of Jesus picking grain on the Sabbath.  They confronted Jesus asking why did he let them get away with what is unlawful.

They didn’t really put their accusation in the form of a question.  They said:

Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.

Jesus didn’t answer them by citing exceptions to the Sabbath rule.  He didn’t say in the case of transiting a grainfield, all restrictions are suspended.  He challenged these rule-keepers to consider others who did not observe the law as they perceived it.

David brought his whole patrol into God’s house and ate bread consecrated for the priests.

Consider the priests themselves.  They break the Sabbath law on a recurring basis.  The Sabbath is a lasting covenant and it is for everyone—including your slaves and servants and the alien.  It is a special day for your family, your employees, and the visitor that you have taken into your home.

It’s for everyone, yet the priests do much of their work on the Sabbath and God considers them innocent.  Their work on the Sabbath does not offend God.

Jesus gave the Pharisees words that he charged them to understand before.  I desire mercy not sacrifice.

Jesus reminded these religious leaders who were blinded by the rules that one greater than their religious obedience and obsession was right in front of them.  They loved the temple built by human hands but were blind to the One who God sent so that the Spirit of God could live within the human temple.

They were so fixed on compliance that they missed compassion.  They defined duty but were blind to the divine.  They took the directives of God that were given for the people’s own good and embalmed them to be put on display.

The Pharisees knew the Sabbath rules—some from God and surely some from their own interpretation and addendum—but they did not recognize the Lord of the Sabbath.

They did not know the Lord of the Sabbath.

Understand that when you look upon the Sabbath as a restraint instead of a constraint, you have missed the heart of God.  Some of you are Googling constraint and restraint, so I will give you the short definitions.

Constraints are things that we must do.  Restraints are things that we must not do.  That’s simplified, but it will serve us here.

What must we do?  Receive the Sabbath as a festival.  It’s not a painful duty.  Remember when Jesus taught about fasting and how he used the religious hypocrites as examples.  They put on their long faces so people would know that they had given up eating for the day.  Oh, feel sorry for me.  Look on me as one going the extra mile for God.

You should hear Linda Ronstadt singing Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me in the background.

What must we not do?  Receive the Sabbath as a duty or burden or something that must be done.  Work 6, rest 1 was a model given for our own good.  The Owner put this in the Owner’s Manual.  It’s for our own good.  It’s not something that makes us good.  Only Christ brings us into right standing with God.

It is something to be celebrated as a festival unto the Lord and it is for our own good.  The religious hypocrites didn’t get it.  They did not understand that God desires mercy over sacrifice.  Sacrifices were commanded, but mercy revealed the heart of God and God wants to see mercy in all of us so much more than he wants to see all A’s on our report cards.

If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.  For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

Enough for the grain McMuffins that the disciples had eaten.  Everyone was on their way to the Synagogue including the grain-fed disciples.

There was a man with a shriveled hand present.  There is no back story here.  There were no friends who brought a man on a mat with great faith on display.  There was no one crying out to the Son of David.  There was a man with a shriveled hand.

Perhaps the Pharisees knew that he would be there because he was there every Sabbath.  Perhaps they made sure he was there and presented himself to Jesus.  In any case, he was there.

The man with the shriveled hand had no speaking part in this encounter.  The Pharisees had scripted this encounter.  The man was simply on display to set up their question.

Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?

For being among the smartest men of their age, the Pharisees were slow learners.  Jesus replied with a mini-parable type answer.

If you have a sheep that falls into a hole that it can’t get out of it on its own and it happens to be the Sabbath, do you enjoy your day of rest and hope that no harm comes to this sheep while you are kicked back in your recliner?

Of course not.  You go rescue the sheep.  It will take a little work but who would risk losing a sheep over compliance with a rule made for our own good?

Of course, you rescue the sheep! Consider the words of Jesus that begin the segue from lecture to application.

How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.

It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.  Jesus didn’t say acceptable.  He didn’t say permissible under certain very specific circumstances. 

When we get to chapter 24—the short course on eschatology, Jesus will caution his followers that they should hope that they do not have to flee the abomination that will come on the Sabbath day.  Is that because God will hold that against you?  No.  You will need every bit of Sabbath rest that you can get when this time of Great Tribulation comes upon the earth.  Everything will seem out of sorts, even your celebration of the Sabbath will be disturbed.

The Pharisees—the lawyers of God’s law—might have argued that the remarks of Jesus were just obiter dictumnonbinding rabbit trails if you will.  The lawyers might have started listing specific exceptions:  David’s men, priests, sheep…

Jesus would not be restricted.  It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath!  This was not an academic discussion for Jesus.

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.

And the Pharisees immediately believed and followed Jesus.  Not exactly.  That would have demonstrated that they were beginning to understand mercy over sacrifice. 

Instead, they started making plans to kill Jesus.  The very people who were such sticklers on the Sabbath law seemed to have no reservation about God’s directive against murder.  Those plans will be in play another dozen chapters or so.

For now, how do we deal with the Sabbath?  Is it Friday, Saturday, or Sunday?  It was and is the seventh day.  Six days you shall labor and then rest one.  Make that one day special to the Lord as you would a festival. 

God made a special day for you.  This day serves you.  When you observe it as the celebration that God intended, you bring glory to God.  When you look at others with your penalty flags at the ready, we too miss the mercy over sacrifice part of God’s very being. It’s as if we would rather serve a god of wood or stone with rules as rigid as their man-made composition, than one of love and mercy.

I often use two analogies when discussing what we call the Law of Moses, which includes the Sabbath.  The first is training wheels.  We need what Paul would describe as guardianship. 

The law has its purposes.  The one that we know best is to point us to Christ, but it also works like training wheels on a bicycle.  It helps us when we stray too far one way or the other.  Someday, we will be guided by and driven by love.  We will desire God and his ways and his righteousness and the loving God that we know will draw closer to us as we draw closer to him.

The training wheels were not bad.  We just have learned to live by God’s love much better than by his checklist.

The analogy that I like best is that of headlights.  Imagine that you are driving to Cordell on Highway 152 at midnight.  There is an oncoming car with headlights on that are blinding to you.  They are those new ones that it doesn’t matter if they are on high beam or not, they illuminate 4 sections of land at once. 

It is all you can do to stay on the road with the intensity of these lights.  Occasionally, a mean word or two for the owner of the headlights slips out. 

The next day at noontime, you are driving the exact same route and meet the exact same car and it has its headlights on.  You barely notice the vehicle and its lights.  It’s not that the lights were any less intense.  It’s that the intensity was surpassed by the intensity of the sunlight.  There was no lessening of the intensity of the headlights.  They remained unchanged.

Jesus was and is greater than the law, than the temple, than the best levels of compliance that humankind has ever seen.  His glory surpasses all of these.

When we think of the Sabbath, it has not lessened in one degree.  It remains with us generation to generation as a festival of the Lord that has been given for our own good.

It is a day in which it is lawful to do good, even if it seems to break the hard and fast rules.

When we began this message, I asked:  Were there no roads?

Of course, there were roads but Jesus was not restricted to the roads of humankind.  There were roads of human expectations but Jesus walked through the grainfields with his disciples. The ways of his Father gave him reason to do some off-roading.

 In the previous chapter, I asked all to consider rereading the words of our Master in the context of human expectations.  Once we consider the expectations of John the Baptist, of the weary and worn out, and on those cities who saw the miracles but would not repent, we should consider how often do our modern-day expectations get in the way of seeing the truth?

There is a whole range of discussion concerning the Sabbath and our modern observances of the Lord’s Day.  There is plenty of discussion online, much of which contains the tools of the Father of Lieslogical fallacies inserted between a biblical premise and the desired outcome of the author.  Make sure that you can take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ Jesus so that you are not baited into these traps and deceived as to the truth.

So for now, we focus on is it lawful to do things on the Sabbath that might otherwise seem out of bounds but are good?  Jesus said that it was and is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.

And if it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath, it is surely lawful to do good on all of the other days of the week.  When we understand that, we are closer to understanding that God desires mercy so much more than sacrifice.

We understand more the God who sent his Son to save and not condemn.

We understand more the God who is love.

We understand more that the only debt we should carry is to love one another.

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.  Jesus is Lord of all.  Jesus is Lord.  One day every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord and it will be to the glory of God.

Let us abide in the words of our Lord and do good every day even on the Sabbath.

Let us not be restricted where we are purposed to be liberated.  Let us do good every day even if that is Monday or Thanksgiving Day or the opening day of bow season or the Sabbath.

Let us do good and bring glory to God.


Friday, November 20, 2020

Matthew 11 - Part 5


Read Matthew 11

In much the same way that we see in John 11 and 17, Jesus talked aloud to his Father in heaven.  He praised him for revealing the truth to those who were not rich or wise or fully vested in the world.  Those who were like children had eyes to see the truth that came through Jesus.

Jesus is affirming less to his Father than to those who might hear that the Father had vested all things in him.  Again, we see parallels to John’s gospel.  If you know the Son then you know the Father.  Only the Son knows the Father by himself.  We know the Father through the Son.

Jesus did not come to those perched in worldly authority.  He did not check in with the Roman Emporer or his governor in Judea.  He didn’t make an appointment with the Sanhedrin.  He didn’t book his stay at Embassy Suites.

John ministered at the Jordan River.  He wore strange clothes and had a unique diet, but the people came to see him.  People in search of God and his ways came to see him.

Jesus came to those same lost sheep who were searching for their shepherd.  They were weary and worn out.  Jesus came and healed and ministered and taught and those with ears to hear and eyes to see received him.

Some did not receive him.  We have already covered the woe unto you part of this chapter.  Some—not the high and mighty in this world—but the weary and worn out were seeking a shepherd.  Consider these words of Jesus that most appropriately hit this target audience.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

These are words of comfort.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

They are words of rescue.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

They are words of invitation.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

They are words that we try to make stand-alone counsel when they are coupled with other very important words that take us from his incredible rest to purpose—God given purpose—which will give us rest and assurance to our very core.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

What is it to take the yoke of Jesus?  There is the obvious metaphor.  Oxen were yoked to pull a plow. When you are yoked, you share a burden.  The task is not yours alone.  Work is required, but you don’t carry or pull the whole load.

That fits.  There is another thought or two on the matter.  The yoke is the prescribed teaching and course of study and ways of a rabbi.  Disciples were yoked to their teacher to learn God’s ways as he knew them.

Hebrew rabbis each thought that their yoke most closely aligned itself with the yoke of the Torah.  There were surely differences among rabbis.  Some might seem more restrictive or burdensome than others.  Surely Sabbath constraints and restraints were among those and would result in interesting encounters with Jesus.

When Jesus said take my yoke, he was indeed charging us—often the weary and worn out of our age—to take his ways upon ourselves.  But his charge did not end with taking his yoke.  We are to learn from him.  Salvation may come in an instant but discipleship comes over a lifetime.

We are to learn from Jesus.  We take his yoke and learn from him.  The verb here is learn.   This learning leads us to real rest.  Yes, our bodies need to rest from our labors.  We need to rest even more from our troubles, but you can’t really rest from your troubles, at least not on your own.

Now consider the last piece of this counsel.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Jesus is not asking more of us that we can do.  What he asks is so much easier than earning our salvation through our works.

What he asks is light work compared to carrying our troubles and guilt and shame and thoughts of not being good enough around with us.

His burden—what he calls us to do—is not so heavy as to scare anyone away.  His burden is light.

Our modern-day problem is that we want the peace of our Lord without his yoke. We want his rest without his yoke. We want to do things our way and feel assured and full of peace and fully rested as if we had taken on the yoke of our Master.

It’s sort of like desiring salvation without repentance. 

It’s like wishing we had faith while being anchored to our doubts.  It’s wanting to walk by sight not faith.

There is no valid reason not to take the yoke of Jesus.  He said his yoke is easy and his burden is light.  We believe him or we don’t!

Yes, there may be some hate and persecution headed our way because we take his yoke upon us, but the one who brought everything into creation can give us peace in the middle of persecution.

He can give us rest for our souls.

The problem shared among many modern-day Christians is that we try to fit the teachings of Jesus into the patterns of our lives when we are charged to learn from him.  We don’t try to make the word of God fit the world we live in.

When Paul writes that we are not to remain conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, he is charging us to learn from Jesus.

The number of pastors and church leaders preaching to itching ears by conforming the word of God to the cause of the week is beyond belief.  Jesus said learn from him. 

We are to learn from him.  He is not asking for more than he equips us to do.  His yoke is easy.  His burden is light.  He offers rest—real rest that cannot come from what the world can give.

We must not give in to learning the ways of the world.  We must not reinforce the learning that runs counter to the teachings of Jesus.  We must learn from our Teacher, Master, and Savior. 

This entire chapter has a theme of rejecting Jesus in favor of our own understanding, our own expectations, and our own desires.  Reread the chapter once more with this thread in mind.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus tells us in the middle of the craziest year most of us have ever known, that he offers peace and rest and assurance.  We come to him and we learn from him and we put his words into practice.

We set aside our personal expectations of what God should do, what the government should do, and what our friends and neighbors should do and we just trust God like never before.  We do things his way and enjoy his peace and rest.

It’s not too hard for us.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


Matthew 11 - Part 4


Read Matthew 11

You don’t have to be a biblical scholar to understand that you do not want to be on the receiving end of a sentence that begins:  Woe unto you…

There’s a big dose of woe unto you coming for the Scribes and Pharisees in chapter 23, but the words of the present chapter are directed at the weary and worn out people who should have repented.  They were for the sheep without a shepherd.

The Hebrew people knew their history, especially places such as Sodom and Gomorrah.  Those people got what they had coming to them, but Jesus compared the cities of the region that had seen his miracles and not repented to these infamous cities.  In fact, he said that if the miracles that he had done in Galilee had been done in Sodom, the people of Sodom would have repented.

Sodom would still be standing.  Lot’s wife might have become a pillar of a godly community instead of a pillar of salt.

Many received Jesus as the Son of God. They understood him to be the Messiah.  They knew he was the greatest man that God had ever sent.

Many would not see and would not repent.  Jesus noted that the evidence would have been convincing enough for evil Sodom, so it should have been more than enough for you who profess to be godly people.

God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him, but some loved the world and its ways too much.

I’ll wrap up this short section where I began.  You don’t have to be a biblical scholar to understand that you do not want to be on the receiving end of a sentence that begins:  Woe unto you…

Be thankful that we have not seen, yet we have believed.


Matthew 11 - Part 3


Read Matthew 11

My time as a newspaper manager gave me insights into our human condition that I might have overlooked before.  I had some unique insights from my time in the Corps, but it was the newspaper that rounded out my experience with people.  Regardless of the circumstances, service never met the expectations of some, mainly because the expectation could never have been met by a newspaper.

A customer would complain that the paper was supposed to be on the porch.  I asked where it was.  It was on the porch but a full 14 inches from where it was the day before.

One of my contemporaries received a photo from a subscriber with about 9 X’s taped on his front porch where the paper had landed over the past two weeks.  It wasn’t a bad grouping.  Most of the masking tape X’s were only a few inches apart.  The manager asked the subscriber to remove all of the X’s except the one where he wanted the paper so both carrier and customer could agree on the target.

I had one customer who despised his carrier.  He liked the paper but did not like the carrier.  If the paper was 10 minutes late, I got a call.  Realize that the customer had his paper when he called but he wanted to make sure that I knew he had waited for an extra 10 minutes.  Usually, this was because the truck from the Oklahoma City area had run late and put everyone else late in turn.

That same customer called me one rainy morning to tell me that he did not get a paper.  I called the carrier.  The paper had been bagged and was place extra close to the front door as an extra measure against the weather.  At that time of year, most carriers used red bags.

I talked with the customer again and told him that there should be a red bag on his porch with his paper in it.  He said that he had seen the bag earlier and did not know what was in it so he threw it away.  He wanted to know if we could bring him another paper. 

The Oklahoman had this promotion that if you already subscribed to the Sunday paper, they would add the daily paper at no additional charge to the customer.  Some liked this and some didn’t but the marketing people would add the publications nonetheless.

One customer called the local carrier about this.  They talked and the customer understood that the carrier was required to deliver the publications listed and as a result, they made a little more money in the process because the Oklahoman paid the bill for the customer.  Actually, they just included the price of the daily papers in the price of the Sunday subscription so as not to make these daily papers as something that was free.  Most newspapers make their money in advertising and by adding these free papers, they can charge their advertisers more.

This one customer in Mangum just did not want these daily papers.  They stacked up or went directly into the trash.  The carrier offered a unique solution.  She said that she drove right by the subscriber’s trash can on her route and asked if it would be ok if she put the paper in the trash can when she delivered.

The paper was deliver as required and placed exactly where the customer wanted it.  Sometimes you get exactly what you want.  I’m sure that the advertisers that paid a little extra were not too happy about this arrangement, but it worked perfectly for the subscriber and the carrier.

Jesus noted that it didn’t matter what those whom God had sent did, it didn’t meet the expectations of some.  Some people just won’t be happy with anything.

There was this one customer in Lawton, Oklahoma.  She was an elderly woman and called the main office with her complaints.  That meant that they showed up in written format on my morning’s paperwork which I could view online the evening before.  She said that she had not been getting her paper.

I called and she answered.  I told her I was calling about her not getting her paper.  She said that she had been getting it but she wasn’t happy with it.  Sometimes she thought her neighbor wanted to steal it.  The neighbors hadn’t taken it yet but they might.  Before I could proffer a solution, this lady launched into a thirty-minute nonstop monologue about everything wrong with her neighborhood. 

I listened attentively hoping she would take a breath and I might be able to work out what we needed to do with her newspaper.  She never took a breath.

Out of the blue she said, “I’ve been talking a lot about myself.  I want to hear about you.  Where do you live?”

I said that I lived in Burns Flat.

She remarked that was where the spaceport was and she asked if I had been into space.

I chuckled a little and said no.

Her reply was not anticipated.  She said, “Are you afraid?”

I tried to explain that nobody had gone into space from Burns Flat, at least not so far.  I noted that if the space industry did get into the tourism business as they were promoting, tickets for the few minutes in space might be just beyond my price range.

We parted cordially after another twenty minutes and her last words were don’t be afraid to go into space. The discussion never returned to the newspaper. I was in Lawton about a week later and stopped by her house but she was not there.  That probably saved me half a day.

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do, say or don’t say; some people are just not going to be happy.  Some people won’t accept what is right before them if it doesn’t meet their expectations of reality or logic or philosophical leaning.  It’s just not good enough if it was not what they were expecting to see.

I have to practice extra restraint for the next few weeks.  Some of you know that the political scientist emerges from within me a few times a year.  It’s fun for me.  It’s disturbing for others as I often cite obscure references such as the Constitution of The United States or the United States Code, and occasionally an epistle or two from our Founding Fathers. 

The former presumed to be binding; yet the latter often offering insight into the former.

I have noted that the presidential election does not occur until the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.  For 2020, that translates to 14 December.  That gets me labeled a racist.  I can’t make the connection, but that’s the response.

When I proffer that about half of the electorate didn’t vote for the guy that is presumed to have won and we would be wise to let the system run its course so that claims of fraud and misuse of power and authority by states can be adjudicated, I am told that this has resulted in a dictatorship.

Again, I can’t make the connection.  Some people are not happy with anything other than their own thoughts. I won’t preach politics from the pulpit, but I will preach that we should be able to have civil conversations and use the sound mind that God gave us to reach our decisions on any subject without hating each other or venturing down the path of perpetual name-calling that is so popular these days.

Some of you have probably figured out from my political musings elsewhere that the guy I wanted to win, probably won’t.  Believe it or not, I don’t always get what I want.  The other guy or gal has won many times in my life and I didn’t throw a temper tantrum or cry that the sky is falling as some are apt to do with anything that doesn’t go their way.

I would like to know that the elections were legitimate and that if there was fraud or corruption that it was dealt with regardless of whether it changes the immediate outcome or not.  Those thoughts usually land me in the hater category.

It’s tough to be Constitutionalist in the age where no one reads the Supreme Law of the Land.

It’s tough to be a writer in the age of memes.

It’s tough to desire civil discourse in the age where emotions rule to the exclusion of coherence.

Enough about me.

“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

For some, neither John nor Jesus met their expectations.  These were expectations rooted in the world.  The Kingdom of God would require people to leave their comfort zones.  They must repent of the ways of the world.  They must turn around and let go of the things that were not of God.

People might find out that what they envisioned as the proper course for the world was not in God’s plan.

Jesus would liberate people from the chains of sin and death, but some were not up to seeing or hearing what the God of love had in store for them.  Some would not receive the good plans that God had for them.

Wisdom is proved right by her deeds.

We are blessed to not seek reasons to remain in our worldly comfort zones but to seek God and his kingdom and his righteousness in Christ Jesus.  Our wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord and continues into professing Jesus Christ as Lord.

Thank you, God, that we have eyes to see and ears to hear that Jesus Christ is Lord!

We don’t always get what we expect.

So often we are blessed not to get what we deserve.

We are thankful to receive the gift of life that is freely given.

Thank you, God, that we have eyes to see and ears to hear that Jesus Christ is Lord!


Matthew 11 - Part 2


Read Matthew 11

John’s disciples started back to report to John, but Jesus used this visit as a segue into John’s role in what God was doing.

Jesus asked the people to consider their expectations with regard to John.  Were they expecting to see a man in fancy clothes in a fancy dining hall? 

Did they go to the Jordan just to take in the scenery?

Why did you go to see John?

He was a prophet and not just a prophet, but the greatest prophet sent to humankind.  He was Elijah for those who had eyes to see.  He prepared the way for the Lord.

He also marked the onset of battle between the kingdom of the world and the Kingdom of Heaven which was breaking out everywhere.  God had opened his kingdom to humankind as never before and the world fought against it.  Even the religious leaders of the day fought against it.

There were prophets and there was the law that had preceded John, but once John—the forerunner—came, the battle between the ways of the world and the ways of God were directly opposed on this earth.  The spiritual struggle was manifested on the earth.

People could conform to the patterns of the world or repent of those ways and seek the ways of God.  God open his kingdom to humankind and humankind fought against it. 

Think to Jesus saying that he did not come to bring peace but a sword.  It was time to choose sides.  You can’t be a friend of God and a friend of the world at the same time. 

God sent his Son to save the world not condemn it; yet, some chose to live conformed to this sinful world over receiving the One who came to save them.  It was a battle and those resisting the Lord fought violently.

But those who received the Lord also came with gusto.  People knew who held the words of life and they did not hold back. 

The battle was at hand.  Some trusted God and some opposed him.  Victory would be won on the cross, but battle lines had been drawn on the earth in the hearts of men.