Lalapalooza

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Lalapalooza: an extraordinary or unusual thing; an exceptional example.

In 1883, Henry Bridgeman started a dairy business in Duluth, Minnesota, carting milk from home to home by horse drawn wagon. Fifty-three years later, Henry’s sons, Chester and Roy, decided to strike out on their own and opened the original Bridgeman’s Ice Cream Shoppe. Ever since, Bridgeman’s brand has been known for high quality ice cream in crowd pleasing flavors like Caramelicious, Coconut Commotion and Raspberry Fudge Torte.

They are also renowned for the La La Palooza.

This over-the-top dessert is a sundae made up of eight scoops of ice-cream (two each of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and butter brittle) drenched in decadent caramel, pineapple and strawberry toppings, with handfuls of chopped walnuts, cherries, and sliced bananas and crowned with a mountain of whipped cream.

Anyone who eats a whole Lalapalooza in their restaurant receives a certificate commemorating the feat. Finish off two Lalapaloozas at one sitting and you get both desserts free. Along with a bellyache. And a possible life-long aversion to ice cream.

Grace is God’s great Lalapalooza.

Grace is eight scoops when two would do.
Grace is rich sauce generously poured on top.
Grace is toasted nuts and sweet cherries in syrup.
Grace is bananas at that just-right stage of full flavor.
Grace is a mountain of genuine cream whipped to perfect peaks.

Jesus came to earth full of grace
and poured out His favor on us undeserving rebels.

“From His fullness we all have received grace upon grace.”
John 1:16

Jesus piles on grace
and then more grace.
Grace served
on top of grace.
Grace running over.
Grace dripping down.
He dishes out grace in
huge,
heaping
helpings,
lalapalooza style.

Minus the bellyache.

cherries

This week’s reading: John 1:35-51 (deeper study on John 1:14-18)
Next week’s reading: John 2 (deeper study on John 2:13-22)

Unwelcome

unwelcome

Imagine you are the matriarch (or patriarch) of a large extended family. You know every person intimately and remember the joy you felt welcoming each new life. The generations make a plan to join together for a family reunion. You look forward to seeing everyone again.

But when you walk in, no one recognizes you. Certainly age could have altered your appearance – a few more wrinkles, a bit stooped over – but the family resemblance is undeniably striking.

They turn to look at you with bewildered faces.
When you say, “It’s me,” they shake their heads and say,
“Who are you? We don’t know you.”

Then all your own people turn their backs on you.
You are not received.
They say, “You are not welcome here.”

You say, “None of you would even be here if it weren’t for me.”
“We don’t believe you,” they laugh.

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Just imagine.

He was in the world
and though the world was made through him,
the world did not recognize him.
He came to that which was his own,
but his own did not receive him.
John 1:10-11

This week’s reading: John 1:19-34 (deeper study on John 1:6-13)
Next week’s reading: John 1:35-51 (deeper study on John 1:14-18)

Something to think about: If Jesus came to your door, would you recognize Him? Would you invite Him in? 

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

start

When the four gospel writers set out to write an account of Jesus’ life, they had to decide where to start. Luke began with a detailed narrative of Jesus’ birth story. Mark skipped all that and jumped right in with Jesus as a 30 year old man. Matthew went way back — 42 generations, in fact — to Father Abraham. Each of them had their reasons, based on the audience they were trying to reach.

But John?
He did something very different.
“In the beginning….”
John’s started his gospel by plagiarizing Moses’s opening line in Genesis 1.

John’s point?
Jesus was here in the beginning.
Jesus was here before the beginning.
Jesus was here before the beginning began.

To accurately tell the story of Jesus’ life, John decided to reach back farther than John the Baptist and the Jordan River and the dove.

John comprehended that he needed to push past the immaculate conception and Bethlehem and the manger and the shepherds and the angels.

John understood that he had to venture beyond Jesus’ great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Abraham.

John was compelled to somehow communicate that Jesus is beginning-less, that He existed before time and space and the created order as we know it. So, John started at the very beginning.

begin

“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God
in the beginning.”
John 1:1-2

Each gospel provides a unique picture of Jesus.
Matthew shows us that Jesus came from the line of Abraham and is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
Mark shows us that Jesus came from Nazareth, portraying Jesus as a Servant.
Luke shows us that Jesus came from Adam, presenting Jesus as the Perfect Man.

But John?
He goes where no gospel writer had gone.
John shows us that Jesus
came straight from heaven,
declaring Jesus is God.

That’s a very good start to 2020.

*My 2020 Bible reading plan will take us on a slow stroll through the first ten chapters of the gospel of John over the next three months. Come along! Treasures await!

This week’s reading: John 1:1-18 (deeper study on John 1:1-5)
Next week’s reading: John 1:19-34 (deeper study on John 1:6-13)
Something to think about: How does Jesus’ eternal nature (no beginning, no end) impact you? 

2020 Vision

FOCUS.
That’s my word for the year because, well, 2020.

focus

When I was in 2nd grade I got glasses.

I walked out of the optometrist’s office and said,
“Wow, I never noticed that church steeple before.”

I went to school and said,
“Wow, I can see the chalkboard from the back of the room now.”

I sat down to watch Gunsmoke on TV and said,
“Wow, I don’t have to squint anymore.”

I didn’t realize how much I’d been missing until my first pair of cat-eye glasses helped me focus. The steeple, the blackboard and the TV didn’t change, but my ability to see was altered by those corrective lenses and everything around me changed.

I have a feeling there are beautiful sights in front of me
that I’m not noticing.

Maybe there are lessons for me to learn if I step back
and get a deeper perspective.

It’s likely I’m trying too hard, straining to sharpen
what seems blurred and confusing.

I need the corrective lens of God’s truth to bring perspective and clarity to this nebulous, secular culture. I need the light of God’s Word to distinguish what’s true and what’s false. Most of all, I need to keep my eyes on Jesus.

“Stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith.”
(Heb. 12:2)

This is my prayer for 2020 vision:
“Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth Thou has for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now, I wait for Thee, ready, my God, Thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine.”

eyes2

Buckle Up

This fall, PB is preaching on the full armor of God as found in Ephesians 6.  As he spoke about the belt of truth last Sunday, a song started playing from the dark recesses of my mind. Maybe you remember it? (If you’re over 50.)

Buckle up for safety — Buckle up!
Buckle up for safety! Always Buckle Up!
Pull your seatbelt snug,
give an extra tug.
Buckle up for safety, everybody — buckle up!

seatbelt2

This jingle, which was on a television commercial in the mid 1960s, encouraged the public to use some newfangled things called “seat belts”. By 1968, all American made cars were mandated to include the safety feature. Twenty years later, laws were passed in most states requiring people to actually use them.

buckleI’m sure the Apostle Paul didn’t have seat belts in mind when he wrote, “Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.” (Ephesians 6:14) But, like a seatbelt, truth keeps us from flying all over the place when we come up against something. It keeps us safe.

I’m also sure that the composer of that jingle wasn’t trying to make a theological statement. But just look at these words.

Buckle up for safety — Buckle up!
Buckle up for safety! Always buckle up!
Show the world you care,
by the belt you wear.
Buckle up for safety! When you’re driving buckle up!

Being honest and truthful is a way to display compassion.
Offering a shaky world the solid ground of the Gospel shows we care.

Buckle up for safety — buckle up!
Buckle up for safety! Always buckle up!
Put your mind at ease,
tell your riders please.
Get your seat belts buckled! Everybody, buckle-up!

Peace of mind comes from being secure in Christ.
The road ahead is gonna get bumpy, so tell your riders. Please.

The truth is,
we need the belt of God’s truth holding us together.
Buckle up, people.

From Fever to Fervor

Two little verses — that’s all I read.
And then this happened.

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Now, that’s what I call a Bible party.
I usually keep these celebrations private,
but maybe somebody needs to listen in today.
“Put wings to my words and send them to whoever needs them.”

Two little verses — Matthew 8:14-15. “When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.”

Mark’s gospel reports that this happened on the Sabbath. Jesus, Peter, Andrew, James and John were in Capernaum and had just been to church (synagogue). They must have been going to Peter’s house for lunch, after all, he had a wife who could make a mean falafel. Peter might have said, “Hey guys, come on over. My wife won’t mind a bit.” (Holy imagination is at work here. The Bible says nothing about Peter’s wife’s cooking.) Really? Peter was married?

“Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Peter?” 1 Corinthians 9:5

So yes, Peter was married and his wife’s mother lived with them. Did they have any children, I wonder? Did any of the 12 apostles have children? Jesus’ brothers probably had children. Did they refer to the Messiah as “Uncle Jesus”? Ah….probably not. However, at one point, Jesus’ family thought He had lost his mind. Did they ever talk about their crazy uncle? (Time to reign in that imagination.) Back to the story.

Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever — but no one asked Jesus to heal her. Jesus just saw her lying in bed. (Greek word for fever = pyresso, to be on fire.) I’m sure Mrs. Peter was concerned about her mom. Then her husband showed up at lunchtime with four other men (2 were business partners, 1 was her brother-in-law, and one was a preacher.)

Oy vey.

Lunch wasn’t happening with m-i-l down in bed and Mrs. P tending to her. So Jesus went to the older woman’s bed and touched her hand. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t feel her forehead, he didn’t close his eyes and pray a long prayer. He touched her. And just like that, the fever broke. No, the fever fled, disappeared, ceased to be.

What did she do? She did what any good Jewish grandma would do — she got up and started fixing lunch. There were no residual effects of the fever, no decreased energy or lack of strength. She was good as new. (Greek word for “got up”= egeiro, resurrected) This was a mini-resurrection, a foreshadowing, a miracle for an unnamed, insignificant old woman. The dear soul got up and served, which was the only logical response to Jesus’ touch.

What a time they must have had around that dinner table! The ladies hadn’t been in church that morning, so they missed the amazing teaching Jesus gave and the dramatic driving out of an evil spirit. (Mark 1:21-28) Peter and company must have recounted that morning’s unusual worship service to the women. What a day to miss church.

They lingered long over lunch and deepened their relationship with this amazing Teacher. Mrs. Peter was so grateful for her husband’s new friend. Now she could see what drew her man to this Man. He was unlike anyone she ever knew. Could it really be Him? Messiah? Here in her humble home? Eating her falafels?

falafels

I live a fevered life sometimes.
I lie in bed, agitated by concerns and worries about the future.
I burn up with resentment and painful memories from the past.
Jesus sees me lying there, huddled under my burdens.
He touches my hand. I grab ahold. He helps me get up.
My fever is transformed into fervor to serve.

Every morning He resurrects us
so we can be about the Father’s business.

Jesus is aware of the needs
in your home,
in your heart,
in your body.
Ask Him in.
His touch changes everything.

2019 Bible Reading Plan

When I go to a buffet, I like to scope it out before loading up my plate. I peruse the salad bar and the soup offerings. I check out the main entrees and sides, and, of course, eye up the dessert table. After this fly-over, I form my plan in order to make sure I have room for all the things I want to taste or indulge in. Without this big-picture approach, I may just dish up my old favorites and miss some new and exciting flavors.

buffet

Every five years or so, I sense a need to go back and recapture the grand sweep of the Bible. I much prefer the microscopic approach to study — choosing a small portion and burrowing down into it, squeezing out every bit of meaning and nuance. But from time to time, I feel the pull to step away from the microscope and lift my sights to the panoramic view.

Bible

This year’s plan is to read through the whole Bible.

I know it’s daunting.
I know it’s hard to push through Leviticus.
I know a year is a long time to stick with anything.

That’s why I’ve decided to try something different.

I’m going to read through the whole Bible in two months.
Thirty pages a day for 60 days.
I expect this fly-over will provide new taste experiences.
I know this landscape view will add valuable perspective.

Perhaps a 60 day gallop through the Good Book is not for you. Then let me challenge you to pick one book of the Bible you haven’t looked at for a while (or ever!) and read a chapter or two every day for two months.

In March, a reading plan will be available that will focus on the 2019 Lenten series.

falling

(One year Bible reading plans can be found here.)