Sunday Morning Coffee: Teaching

One of the highlights of my  present life is that I get to teach a group of high school kids every other week.  These are homeschoolers, outstanding kids who are respectful and actually interested in what we are studying.  Because I taught in a small Christian school years ago,  where there isn’t much money and you have to be versatile, I got to teach a variety of things.  English, of course, and  history, as well as earth science, elementary music, and Bible.

This year, my students asked for a course that would be something about current events, present-day politics.  Oh boy!  I was more than glad to oblige.  This year we’re studying the Constitution and Current Events.  It’s been so much fun, and not stuffy, dull, boring the way I’m sure some of them thought it would be.Image result for The United States Constitution

The United States Constitution is an amazing document.  I’ve been deeply impressed every time I’ve gone through it, and this time is no exception. I am impressed with the wisdom and foresight of the writers, who created a document than can grow and change, but not too easily.  It is elastic enough to accommodate idealogical changes, but not to lose it’s original intent and power.

Aside from the content, though, I just take great delight in my students. They contribute. They ask questions. They correct me if they think I’ve made an error, but they are never disrespectful. They  look forward to the class, and because they do, so do I.  We have a great time.

It is wonderful to have this opportunity at the ripe old age of 71.   My age is not an issue, but an advantage.  It amazes my students  that I was born only two years after WWII was over, and that I remember the assassinations of the Kennedys, Viet Nam,  and so on. This stuff is ancient history to them, but for me it’s just as real now as it was when it was all taking place. Sometimes I’ll say something that gets me nothing but blank stares, and I realize that they’ve never heard the expression before, or don’t know the story behind the story.

Best of all, I can weave God into the history of our nation and no one is offended by it; no one reports such a heinous act to the authorities or tries to get me fired.  These kids have had  a Christian education.  Their teachers, usually their moms, have done a fabulous job.

I am thankful.

A Little Bit of a Rant

Isaiah 53:6.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

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We went to watch a sheep shearing last spring. It was interesting to watch the sheep that were being rounded up.  If one of them managed to break away and run in a different direction, a few more would follow.  They didn’t know where they were going. They just followed someone else’s lead, blindly, and with no purpose but to do what they wanted.

That’s what the first sentence in this verse pictures.  We’re given the guidelines for life in God’s Word, but we want to go our own way. We stray from the path the Shepherd has given us. We get out from under His leadership, guidance, and protection. We go astray.

Every single one of us has turned to a way we think is better.  Our own way.  I have clients whose children or spouses tell them, “I don’t care what God wants or says. I want to do what I want to do.  Besides, He has to forgive me so it really doesn’t matter.”

He has to forgive me?  That’s completely conditional.  I John 1:9. “IF we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

God is not required to forgive me.  Has has promised to do so IF and WHEN I confess, repent, and turn away from my sin and back to Him.  It is foolish to assume that God HAS to forgive me when I rebel and go my own way.

The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  And that’s because all of us, every single one of us, has sinned against Him.  The word iniquity is one we don’t hear much these days.  I think that’s partly because in our present spiritual state in America, there really is no iniquity, is there?  Everything is acceptable, everything is to be tolerated. Nothing is wrong except calling sin what it is.

I read a post this morning about a young man who brutally assaulted (raped) a girl. The judge, because it’s “only his first rape”  is inclined to let him off the hook if the boy pleads “no contest,” and give him an unadjudicated probation and a fine for one count  of unlawful restraint.

That, my friends, is iniquity! The young man’s behavior was iniquitous, the judge’s leniency is iniquitous.  They don’t seem in the least concerned for the girl who was chosen to be his first rape victim,  which in my mind means it is clearly expected that there will be more.

Jesus Christ died for that young man’s iniquity.  That doesn’t mean, though, that he is automatically forgiven. Forgiven and salvation are available to him, but they come only with confession and repentance.

He Was Wounded

Isaiah 53:5.

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.

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There is no way to look at this verse, if we know the Lord and love Him, without  having a profoundly humbled, thankful reaction.  As I said yesterday, this passage always brings tears as I consider the horror that Jesus endured for my sake; for my sin; for all our sin.

He was wounded: to bore a hole; slay; pierce. This refers to the piercing of His hands, feet, and side.

For our transgressions:  Jesus was the perfect Son of God.  He never sinned.  His nature was pure, holy, and sanctified.   Yet He willingly went to the cross in our behalf, knowing that the shedding of His blood would be the only final cleansing for the sin of all mankind.  It was for me He died. It was for you.

He was bruised: To crumble, beat to pieces; break; crush; destroy; smite. This refers to the scourging He endured, which was often, in itself, enough to kill a man. I have heard and read descriptions of what a scourging with the Roman cat o’ nine tails did to a human being. It’s horrible, unthinkable; humiliating, causing shock, dehydration, often the exposure of inner organs as flesh was torn away by the shards, stones and whatever else was tied into the ends of the whip.   It was for me.  It was for  you.

For our iniquities;  It cannot be stated often enough that what Jesus endured in our behalf was unimaginable in it’s cruelty, pain, and humiliation.  For me.  For you.

The chastisement of our peace was upon Him; The Hebrew word for chastisement  in this verse is correction.  Jesus needed no correction. The correction He suffered was ours. We had sinned and were estranged from God, so God sent Him to be chastised in our place in order that we might become reconciled and have peace with God. What was necessary to reconcile God and man was placed upon Christ, to make peace again between them.

And with His stripes:  in Hebrew, a black and blue  mark; bruises, hurt, wounds, and spots. Christ could have received as many as 469 stripes from scourging alone (this bases on the Roman custom of sometimes affixing 12 lashes to the whip handle, and striking the 39 times often used by the Jews in physical punishment).

We are healed: The Hebrew word here is to mend; cure; heal; repair; make whole. We are corrected and made whole, free of the results of sin, through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. To believe in Him, to accept the truth of His death and resurrection, and to accept His substitutionary death as our reconciliation with God is to be born again, made whole, and accepted by the Father through the sacrifice of the Son.


Smitten of God and Afflicted

Isaiah 53:4-5.

Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.

I probably should have stayed with my plan to treat each verse separately, but these two are so bound together that it seemed wrong to separate them.  It is also difficult for me to be analytical and academic about these verses, because they always bring tears to my eyes   However, for the sake of understanding the incredible depth of His sorrow and suffering in our behalf, a little word study is helpful.

V. 4:  Surely  (with no doubt, truly, in fact) He hath borne (to lift, bear, carry away, cast away, ease, erase, take away). The picture is of one person taking the burden of another and placing it on himself, as carrying an infant ; or, as the flood lifted up the ark (Psalm 103:12). Our griefs (sicknesses) and carried (to bear; the idea is that the full load is borne by the one carrying it so that all others might be free of it) our sorrows (grief and pain); yet we (those who were there as well as all of mankind since His crucifixion) did esteem Him stricken (to touch, lay the hand upon, strike violently, bring down, smite with a plague) smitten (to strike, beat, kill, punish; slaughter; slay; smite; wound; stripe as in flogging)  of God, and afflicted (browbeat, depress, abase, afflict). 

And I think I was right in the first place to treat each verse separately. We’ll go into verse 5 tomorrow.

The takeaway today, for me, is to never take for granted or underestimate what Jesus suffered on His way to the cross and on the cross.  Even those who witnessed it, many of them, turned away and could not bear to watch.  And there were also those, of course, who delighted in what they believed was the end of this Man from Galilee.






Man of Sorrows

Isaiah 53:3.  “ He is despised and rejected of men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.

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He was a Man of Sorrows because He carried our sorrows! He personally had no sin, sickness, pain, or suffering on account of His own self and sins; but we have these in abundance, and since He came into the world to carry them for us, He had to become identified with us in our suffering by taking them upon Himself and bearing them unto death so that we might be free from them. Therefore, sorrow became a characteristic of His life during His sufferings in particular. He no doubt had sorrows from the time His sensitive, pure, sinless, and untainted life began to contact the sins, depravities, corruptions, sicknesses, diseases, and pains of others.

As often as I’ve read, heard preached, and studied the crucifixion of Jesus, I still don’t think I really grasp the horror it was for the pure, sinless, holy Son of God to take ALL the sin and sorrow of ALL mankind on Himself.  In fact, the reaction of the people was to hide their faces from Him as He suffered!

And today, we continue to despise Him.  We continue to refuse Him the esteem He so richly deserves.

A Tender Plant

Isaiah 53:2.

For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.

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Setting the scene, Verse 2 talks about the childhood of Jesus.  No myths or fairy tales here. He was,  however, like a small sprout, a tender shoot, growing out of a decayed stock or stump of a tree that was apparently dead. This refers to His infancy, a sucking child, already predicted by the prophet ( v.2; 7:14; 9:6-7;11:1-2) and fulfilled in Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-55.

The second part of our verse speaks of His suffering. He had no beautiful form, because sin had marred His perfect face. Comeliness in the Hebrew word meant magnificence; splendor; glory; honor, excellency; majesty. He had none of this during His sufferings, but now He has it more than anyone else, except the Father and the Holy Spirit ( Eph. 1:20 -23;Phil. 2:9-11; Col. 1:15-18; I Pet. 3:22).

His lack of physical beauty was only during His suffering.  It is clear from the throngs who followed Him that He was indeed good to look upon; that He had an appeal about Him that made it possible for Him to enter a synagogue and teach as a known Rabbi. I hesitate to use words like aura or charisma, because they are so over-used and misused in today’s superlative-driven language.  I do believe it is true, though that He was most handsome.  I believe He was full of dignity, authority, and confidence.  I’ve just read an unattributed description of Him, and it was full of flowery language.  I don’t think Jesus was a flowery man.  He worked in Joseph’s carpentry shop; His hands were very likely calloused, rough, and very strong.  He did not live a soft and elegant life, but grew up among the poor.  But in spite of His being a mere Nazarene,  He attracted people wherever He went because He was full of grace and truth.

Luke 2:42 tells us that Jesus, as a child, increased in wisdom (intellect), stature (physical maturity), favor with God (spiritual growth) and favor with man (social growth).

It was this fine and unusually beautiful Man that was tortured to a point of not even looking human before He was placed on the cross.


Sunday Morning Coffee on Saturday Night

I do not have any pain in my back.  I have no pain in my legs, none in my hip.  It’s gone, like magic. I’m going to church tomorrow for the first time in over two months!

My pain specialist, Dr. Loew (pronounced Love)  administered  the injections I needed on Thursday morning.  I was a bit nervous this time, because the pain is coming from the sacrum.  That’s the little triangular set of five small bones that ends in the tailbone.  If you’ve ever fallen on your tailbone, you know that the pain radiates out and lingers for a long, long time.

As he swabbed my back and began to administer the numbing medication (for which I am extremely thankful) he was also checking out the scars from the sacroiliac fusions I had done in 2017.  The doctor who performed those surgeries has an office across the waiting area.  He’s a neurosurgeon, and had a lot to do with developing the SI Joint procedure.  I told Dr. Loew that I had told my surgeon that he was my favorite guy, after my husband and sons.  There was a moment of silence, and then Dr. L said, “Well, where do I come in that line-up?”

“I don’t know,” I replied.  “I haven’t seen you in almost two years.  I guess you’re going to have to earn you place back.”

“Well, we’ll see about that.  I have a feeling I’m going to get my spot back.”

And then he said, “Okay, a pinch, some pressure, and then you’re going to feel it down the back of your leg.  Hang on, this is a big load of medicine.  Ready?”

What could I say?

It’s hard to describe the feeling.  Again, I’m very thankful for the numbing medication.  I have a feeling I’d have been screaming without it.  The pinch isn’t bad, and the pressure wasn’t either, but then he said, “Okay, here we go.  You all right?”

“Uhuh.” And that has to be the absolutely weirdest thing I have ever felt. It was one of the only times in my memory that I’ve been glad to have such short legs.  It felt very warm, traveled down whatever nerve goes there, and had me curling my toes and holding on to the table for dear life.

The removal of that needle was such a relief!

“Can I see it?  The needle?  I didn’t want to look before you put it in.”

Yeah, it was pretty big–long, and the part that held the medicine was quite roomy.

But you know, I was already feeling it taking effect.  I was able to get off the table without any help, got my flip flops on, walked out to the recovery room with no assistance. They keep you for a little bit to make sure you’re not going to faint.  Cranberry juice helped  with that. They take your BP again, and then you get the instructions for after-care and sign a bunch of papers, and off you go.

The relief I’m feeling is amazing.  No pain, after several weeks of waiting, having the appointment postponed for three weeks, not sleeping well, not being able to work or go to church—and in about 15 minutes, it’s all gone.

I don’t know how long it will last.  The other shots I’ve had usually kept me comfortable for about 8-10 months.

There isn’t a cure for what’s going on in my back.  Degenerative joint disease is an arthritic condition. Stenosis is crumbling bone that squeezes nerves, and the nerves aren’t shy about hollering and pitching a fit.  I am well aware that there will be more treatments, and that at some point I will have to depend on my walker and my cane all the time. My two herniations haven’t changed much, so that’s a good thing.  I do have a new place about mid-thorax that is showing some degeneration, but so far there’s no real pain.  Just some numbness now and then, like your foot feels when it’s gone to sleep.

Well, this has become lengthy, and I need to stop.  I do want to mention, though, that I’ve been watching the situation in Turkey with  Pastor Brunson, who is home here in the States now and reunited with his family.  Not much has been said, but I’m fairly certain he was mistreated, perhaps beaten and tortured.  We’ve been praying for him, and we are rejoicing  that he has been freed.  Why do I bring this up?  Well, because it’s so easy to think your own situation is the worst in the world and that your pain is unusually difficult.

I certainly wasn’t having fun for the last couple of months or more, but I was well-fed, had a comfortable bed, had people caring for my needs and just stopping in to say hello. My life was never in danger, and I was not separated from my husband and family.

I’m not ashamed to admit that depression was trying to coil around my mind and my heart, but I recognized it pretty quickly and it didn’t get a grip.  I can’t imagine being in the situation Pastor Brunson was in, not knowing at any given time what was going to happen next.  I have prayed that depression would not lodge in his mind and heart, because it’s very easy for that to happen when your life seems out of your control completely.

The answer, of course, is to turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.