Alligator Waiter

Chef Specials
What’s for lunch today?
Want some alligator bites,
Or shall I bite you?

Any time we get within driving distance of Ponce Inlet on Florida’s Atlantic Seaboard, our car just seems to take us there! The inlet is protected from the Atlantic’s prevailing winds, so the sun always seems especially warm in spring, and the birds are just as interested in us as we are them.

We often stop for lunch at Salty’s Hidden Treasure Restaurant, where the food and ambience are unparalleled and the fish on your plate was caught that morning.

This particular day, we planned to order sandwiches, but a waitress came by with a plate of “alligator bites” (“cajun wild gator tail” the menu explained) that she would give us for half price if we wanted them because she had misunderstood the order from another table, and they would otherwise go to waste.

Yes! We were game to try. Better to lunch on alligator than have alligator lunch on us, we figured! 🙂 It was fun to try something new, even if (like rattle snake and most exotic meats) they did taste strangely like chicken (haven’t you noticed too?)!

BTW, have you ever tasted the bread of life and the water of life? They don’t taste like chicken McNuggets, but I guarantee you’ll be back for more once you savor some. Jesus himself is the spiritual “Bread of Life” (John 6:35) and offers us the “Water of Life” (Revelation 21:6). If you want to grow spiritually, take Him in through meditating on the Bible. Jesus doesn’t bite you, He feeds you!

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”
(Psalm 34:8)

Celebrating the Resurrection at Northridge

Celebrate Easter!
Did you go to church? If not,
Why not listen now?

Did Easter slip by you this year? Many people work in industries where there is no option to stop and rest on Sundays, and for others, attending church wasn’t a priority. Maybe you’re among those who were super busy preparing a feast for family and friends, hiding Easter eggs, and enjoying the cultural aspects of the holiday. If you weren’t able to attend a service anywhere and feel a tug in your heart that you may have missed out, then it’s not too late!

Hundreds of churches around the world now have their services on line! Why not take a break and take in what’s been going on at Northridge Church near Detroit, Michigan? This church is so full of love and energy to reach out to others that on February 17, 2019, they received the “Liberator of the Year” Award for Michigan and Ohio for their involvement in helping with the human trafficking problem. (They are the first and only church to ever be given that honor!) Northridge has also been so excited about Easter that they held 18 services where over 21,000 joined in worshiping and praising God together. You might be happily surprised by what you see, hear, and learn! And, if you live in the area, this coming Sunday (April 28, 2019), Dr. Hugh Ross will be discussing the interconnection between faith and science.

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (24): Be Thou Clean!

One of Jesus’ most prominent ministries while he was on earth was his ability and willingness to heal people of all sorts of sicknesses, not only physical ailments, but spiritual problems. Furthermore, he wasn’t just able to heal some of them. He healed all of them: “Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them” (Luke 4:40). There was no sickness that Jesus could not heal, and there’s no record of him ever refusing to make anyone well who came to him for help.

In our passage for today, a leper came to Jesus seeking help. Do you know what leprosy is? I’d never heard of leprosy as a child, and it’s very uncommon in America, but it’s a terribly disfiguring, painful, progressive bacterial infection that can result in blindness, loss of limbs, and eventually death.

Arran Reeve, age 24 in 1886, suffering from Leprosy

It’s not just one of those diseases like small pox that has been largely eradicated, either. Hundreds of thousands of people (more than half from India) are still contracting new cases every year. Although it can be cured if treated early (and in the past 20 years, more than  sixteen million people have been cured), two thousand years ago when Christ lived on earth, there was no known cure. During biblical times, because it was contagious, people who had leprosy were ostracized from their families and communities. They were required by law to call out, “Unclean!” if anyone approached them. So, it’s not hard to imagine the distress the disciples might have felt to see a leper coming toward them. I think it’s noteworthy that this particular miracle is recorded by three of the gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The blind and lame were healed, but probably most people didn’t think they had contagious diseases. To have a leper approach meant possible contamination for all of them.  However, Jesus didn’t shrink away. Instead, he reached out his hand and touched the leper. Jesus wasn’t afraid of catching infection; he came to deliver us from evil: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). In 1 Peter 2:24, we are reminded that Jesus “his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

Jesus came to heal, and he did: “And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed (Mark 1:40-42; See also Matthew 8:1-3 and Luke 5:12-13).

Isn’t this beautiful? From the second Jesus touched him, the leper was a leper no more! He would never have to shout “Unclean!” when someone approached him! He could be clean if he would be clean, and he desperately wanted to be clean! He was cleansed in a moment, and now he could shout, “Clean” whenever he wanted! 🙂

Do you ever suffer from feeling “unclean?” Would you like to be clean? Jesus can heal you if you’ll come to him and ask! I do not know of a single prophet, priest, or king on earth besides Jesus who has been recorded as being able and willing to heal “all” our diseases. Do you? Only God can heal ultimately and completely, and that’s one of the ways in which Jesus revealed that he was and is God. Come to him!

 “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:2-4).

He Touched Me
(—William J. and Gloria Gaither, copyright Capitol Christian Music Group)

“Shackled by a heavy burden,
‘Neath a load of guilt and shame
Then the hand of Jesus touched me,
And now I am no longer the same
He touched me, oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole
Since I met this blessed Savior,
Since He cleansed and made me whole,
I will never cease to praise Him,
I’ll shout it while eternity rolls
He touched me, oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened and now I know
He touched me and made me whole.”

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (22): Search The Scriptures

While riding on a train in Scotland nearly fifty years ago, I sat next to a young woman about my age who was willing to engage in talking about the Bible. Near the end of our conversation, I asked if she believed in Jesus, whom the Bible presents as the Son of God.

“No, I couldn’t do that!” she responded emphatically.

Surprised, I asked why.

“Because if I really believed what the Bible says, I’d have to change the way I live, and I don’t want to.”

I never heard the Gospel until I was twelve, but I was immediately thrilled! Doubt wasn’t even an issue. I simply believed that God loved me and sent his Son to die for me (and everyone) so that I could have my sins forgiven and become God’s child. What’s not to love about that?! As a child, I didn’t have deep ruts already set in my life that would be hard to get out of. I don’t think I was even on a path at all. I was still simply roaming about the meadow, picking flowers, going no where in particular. I think that may be why young children so eagerly believe and are willing to trust. They don’t have their hearts set in stone yet, and they’re used to following, so to follow the Good Shepherd, who loves them dearly, sounds like a good plan!

My husband’s experience was more like that of the young woman on the train. He grew up in a church hearing about Christ but thought becoming a Christian would impede his social life. It wasn’t until listening to a straightforward Gospel message by Billy Graham on T.V. one night that he felt all his reservations melt away, and he saw no reason to resist God anymore.

If your true heart is to resist God’s love and choose your own way, then I can only pray the Lord will soften your heart so that you desire to know and love Him, because His love is better than anything on earth, and to know Him is life eternal! However, if you find that  you would like to believe but are struggling, then I’d like to encourage you with these words from Jesus: “Search the scriptures . . . they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39).

How do the scriptures testify to the validity of Jesus as the Messiah (the One sent from God to save us)? There are hundreds of references to Christ in the Old Testament which were written hundreds (and even thousands) of years before Jesus was born. For a starter, the Jesus Film Project has listed 55 Old Testament prophecies about Jesus pared with the verses in the New Testament explaining how each prophecy was fulfilled. If you’re sincere about wanting to know the truth, please take a few minutes to peruse this article: time, two of the best ways to increase your faith are by meditating on the Bible, perhaps starting with the Gospel accounts in the New Testament, and by praying, asking God to reveal Himself to you and give you faith to believe the truth.

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.32 There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:30-39).

Jesus is All the World to Me
(Will L. Thompson, 1904, Public Domain)

  1. Jesus is all the world to me,
    My life, my joy, my all;
    He is my strength from day to day,
    Without Him I would fall.
    When I am sad, to Him I go,
    No other one can cheer me so;
    When I am sad, He makes me glad,
    He’s my Friend.
  2. Jesus is all the world to me,
    My Friend in trials sore;
    I go to Him for blessings, and
    He gives them o’er and o’er.
    He sends the sunshine and the rain,
    He sends the harvest’s golden grain;
    Sunshine and rain, harvest of grain,
    He’s my Friend.
  3. Jesus is all the world to me,
    And true to Him I’ll be;
    Oh, how could I this Friend deny,
    When He’s so true to me?
    Following Him I know I’m right,
    He watches o’er me day and night;
    Following Him by day and night,
    He’s my Friend.
  4. Jesus is all the world to me,
    I want no better Friend;
    I trust Him now, I’ll trust Him when
    Life’s fleeting days shall end.
    Beautiful life with such a Friend,
    Beautiful life that has no end;
    Eternal life, eternal joy,
    He’s my Friend.

God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness

Some movies are memorable because they dramatize historical events in unforgettable ways, some live on in our memories because they are so artistically produced, but some are compelling because they bring to life creative, new stories to reinforce ancient wisdom.To me, God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness fits into this last category. It’s a 2018, PG-rated film that is A+ in my book, despite receiving less than stellar critical reviews. The major theme concerns learning to balance “our rights” with love and forgiveness, but the film also deals with many issues of faith. The story (completely fictitious) revolves around a church, located on a university campus, which is accidentally burned down by a distraught student. Although I’ve not seen the previous movies, it’s the third of a series.  God’s Not Dead came out in 2014 and is based on Rice Broocks’ book, God’s Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty. The first film follows a Christian college student named Harper whose faith is challenged by a philosophy professor who believes God is just “a pre-scientific fiction.” There is also a God’s Not Dead 2 released in 2016 that continues the story. Both of the first two movies were well received by Christian audiences, so maybe I need to go back and view them! Alan and I definitely thought the third of this series was very worthwhile. The characters were likeable.The story was both tragic and heartwarming.There was some sweet romance. There were disagreements. There were tensions and troubles.There was good modeling for young people and admirably wise counsel about how to grow in faith and grace even in challenging settings.There was a good resolution with a (reasonably) happy ending. What’s not to love?I will say it took me a little while to get used to the minister’s struggle with bitterness, but then it occurred to me that forgiving others is challenging throughout life. So, even though it’s ugly to see, it’s real and needs to be explored. I’m also not exactly “up” on the teen scene, so it was a little hard to judge, but I’m guessing the movie was reasonably realistic in its depiction of campus life.That being said, I was glad to have watched God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness and will definitely watch for any sequels. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

Twenty-fifth Annual Honolulu Festival Starts Tomorrow: March 8-10, 2019

If you just happen to be in Oahu, consider going to the 25th Annual Honolulu Festival that starts tomorrow and runs from 9am-9pm each day this weekend, culminating in the Grand Parade down Waikiki’s main street: Kalulkaua Avenue. Alan and I “just happened” to be there last March while Alan was at a medical conference and were delighted to experience this colorful international event!According to their website: “The Honolulu Festival is Hawaii’s premier cultural event, promoting mutual understanding, economic cooperation and ethnic harmony between the people of Hawaii and the Pacific Rim region. Each year, the Festival attracts thousands of new and returning spectators who are looking for an experience unique to Hawaii. Through educational programs and activities sponsored by the Honolulu Festival Foundation, the Festival has been successful in showcasing the rich and vibrant blend of Asia, Pacific and Hawaiian cultures to the rest of the world. Events and activities of the Honolulu Festival take place close to the city center, making them great outings for locals and tourists alike. Admission to all the events is free, ensuring that everyone can take part in the Festival.” (Everyone, and even everyone’s favorite friend!)

Like all the best festivals, Honolulu’s Grand Parade has lots of bands,performers in colorful costumes,beauty queens,singers and musicians,fanciful floats,and many groups of lovely people in various traditional dresses. One of the unique aspects of the Honolulu Festival is its international flavor.    There are hundreds of participants from dozens of countries, and thousands of spectators from around the world! Another unique aspect of the parade—being Hawaiian—are many troupes of hula dancers! Last, but not least, are the many Asian cultural influences, not only in floats and dress,but very prominently in costumes depicting idols and dragons. Especially dragons! I think the high point (perhaps figuratively but for sure physically)is a mighty dragon that bounces along high above everyone’s head looking fierce!Just as the dragon looked like he might come and eat us up, his head went down. After some time and work, dragon carriers discovered the problem and fixed it with (what else?) duct tape. I do think half the world is patched together with duct tape, don’t you? The dragon’s eyes still glowed fiendishly, but his mouth had been tightly closed, so he could not bite us! It made me think of the lion in Pilgrim’s Progress. In that story, Christian (a pilgrim on his way to heaven) was terrified by the growling lion he could see ahead in the dim light, but when he got close, he realized that the lion was chained and couldn’t really destroy him as he’d feared.In the Bible, we’re told not to fear anyone but God Almighty, who created all the universe, including us, and reigns over his entire creation. Every other “god” is an imposter, like Honolulu’s green dragon: Puffed up and looking high and mighty, but really just full of hot air, created, promoted, repaired, and carried along by people just like you and me!I hope you aren’t among those who worship false idols, but if you are, may I encourage you to look into the God of the Bible? He is full of mercy, love, and compassion. He loves us so much that he sent his only Son, Jesus, to die for our sins so that we can become God’s children through faith in Christ (John 1:14). According to every other religion, the gods have to be appeased and placated, and it’s left up to us to be “good enough” to get into heaven, but in Christianity, God knows that we’ll never be “good enough,” so he provided for us. All we have to do is repent of thinking we’ll be good enough to get there on our own and accept his love gift, Jesus, as our Lord and Savior. At the Honolulu Festival, there are many kindly staff workers available to help people out. I loved their logo: “Harmony Over the Ocean: Journey to Peace.” Amen to that one! I am all for harmony and journeying to peace, aren’t you?I think this man has it just right! Do you see the sign on his cap? Do you know what “HE>I” means? “He is greater than I.” God is greater than we are. How true! On our “parade route” to heaven, we can’t get there on our own. We need His help, and God wants to help us. He alone deserves our praise and worship!For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised: he also is to be feared above all gods.26 For all the gods of the people are idols: but the Lord made the heavens.27 Glory and honour are in his presence; strength and gladness are in his place” (1 Chronicles 16:25-27).

The Commands of Christ (16): Believe Me

What do you think motivated Jesus while he was on earth? Who was he? Do you think he wanted to be popular and become a king, or do you think he had a different agenda? If so, what?! If he were a shyster, wouldn’t he just quit preaching instead of allowing the Jews to have him crucified? Or, do you think he was delusional? If so, how did he maintain such a quiet, unselfish demeanor?

And, what about his teachings? Do you believe his teaching that the greatest commandments concern love? Most people would agree that love is greater than faith and the cornerstone in each of our favorite relationships, but I think it’s also true that believing in someone—trusting their integrity and veracity—is the only sure foundation for a secure relationship. Billions of people, including Jews and Muslims as well as Christians, believe that Jesus was a prophet and a good man. Some would go so far as to say they admire him . . . a few might even say they love him, but  only those who truly believe what he teaches is true are willing to entrust their lives to him. Jesus was asking the woman at the well to believe him, and I think he’s asking us to believe him today. To say that Jesus is a “good” man without acknowledging him as truthful is an oxymoron. Here are few of the monumental claims he made about himself:

* “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

* “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

* “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

* “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26) The question we all have to answer for ourselves is: Do we believe that Jesus was really telling the truth, or do we think he was a liar who deceived the people?As C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
On what basis was Jesus asking the Samaritan woman to believe him? Remember, this is the first and only time they’d ever met. She only had one bit of evidence to go on—his wisdom—but that was enough. He knew things about her  humanly impossible to know, and he understood spiritual truth: He spoke with authority about God the Father and how to worship Him.She was convinced, and when the disciples returned with food, she left her water pot and went into the city, urging the men to “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29). Many of the men who went out to the well to talk with Jesus were convinced by his words and responded to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). (Note: Jesus did not deny what the men said; He did claim to be the Savior of the world! And, of course, I believe He is!! 🙂 )

Have you asked Jesus to reveal himself to you? Are you willing to let him tell you what he sees in you? Are you willing to read what he taught in the Bible? Or, do you think he was a lunatic and an evil deceiver, out to trick people into believing lies?

John 18:23 “Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?” Are you smiting Jesus?

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:1-3).

Text for this study: John 4: 19-30; 39-42. “The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him . . . 39And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.41 And many more believed because of his own word;42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”