Just as He Said

Sunrise Service 16 April 2017

“The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”  Matthew 28:5-6.

As a man – Jesus was a man of His word.  When he said something, his word could be counted upon.  As a third of the Trinity, Jesus IS the Word.  (John 1:1)

What makes you believe what a person says?  A man I met in a gas station in Michigan many years ago told me “Never take advice from a person who hasn’t put it into practice themselves.”  This statement would seem to indicate we could take advice from Bill Gates about how to start a computer company.  But who could we take advice from about how to get to heaven?  I say there would be no one better than Jesus.  But many of us are cynical, or more specifically, skeptical no matter how much verifiable evidence we are presented with.  There are also some who are so gullible, they believe anything they’re told regardless of the evidence to the contrary.  It is true that the devil roams the earth seeking who he might devour.

So this leaves us with a question that we must grapple with; was Jesus who He said he was?  If the answer is yes, that poses a much more pressing, contemporary and personal question; is Jesus who he has told YOU he is?  Is he the Savior who died as a sacrificial payment for your sins?  Romans 4:25 says He is “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

Why would Jesus die for your sins?  Because sin separates us from those who love us; that includes separation from God.  Not because God stops loving us, but because sin cannot be present in the presence of perfect righteousness.  For us to be with God in Heaven for eternity we must be perfectly righteous like Him.  However, with unreconciled sin, and we ALL have sin in our lives, we cannot be righteous enough.  This is why Jesus came to Earth.  You have all probably heard the scripture verse John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.”  Jesus has “become our righteousness, our holiness and our redemption” 1 Corinthians 1:30.

This is why Jesus couldn’t just stay dead after His crucifixion.  That would have made him the same as all the sacrifices that went before Him.  His offering would have been limited for a specific time.  Future sins would require further sacrifices.  The prophesies concerning the resurrection of the true Messiah would have remained unfulfilled.  Those who died even in faith would remain among the dead.

But Jesus DID come back to life because God His Father accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as perfect which gave that sacrifice eternal power – power for eternal life for those who would acknowledge their sins, ask for forgiveness and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior as Romans 10:9 says “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

God didn’t promise an easy life once a person accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior.  All our troubles don’t magically vanish.  Jesus himself told us  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  I noticed the scripture doesn’t tell me I can do all things “easily”.  I also noticed the scripture says Christ will “strengthen me” which infers I cannot “do all things” in my own strength.  Therefore – I certainly cannot save myself from an eternity in Hell – a result of the penalty of eternal separation from sinless God because of my sinful life.

This is our human condition as stated in the book of Romans So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:21-25.

Jesus had many opportunities to turn away from the cross, but that would have left us lost without hope of salvation and that would have gone against the will of God His Father as stated in John 6:39 “And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day.”

No; Jesus didn’t walk away.  Instead “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8.

And we can trust this resurrected Christ to be our Savior who helps us in all our struggles and delivers us blameless on the day of our salvation because after dying on the cross for our sins, he defeated death and rose again to life – just as he said.  If you are my brother or sister saved in Christ, I rejoice with you in the promise we have – a promise of an eventual end of the struggles of this world and then deliverance into eternity together.  If you have not accepted Jesus Christ’s work on the cross for your salvation and asked Him into your heart as Lord and Savior, let today be your Resurrection Sunday for this is the day of salvation!

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Jesus at Bat

baseball creation

It’s almost Easter and that means it’s also baseball season!  My daughter and I have tickets for some of the Pirates games this year and I can hardly wait!  There will be nachos and hot dogs and ice cream…and lots of baseball rules I’ve yet to fully understand.  We’re going to try to learn “score keeping” this year.  We got matching transistor radios for Christmas so we can catch some extra commentary to help us with that.  One thing I may never understand about baseball though is the sacrifice play.

Take the bunt for example.  A squeeze play happens when a batter lays down a sacrifice bunt in order to get a runner home from third base.  The ball must be tapped lightly and laid down in a slow roll along the first base line.  The perfect bunt remains in fair territory in the infield and comes to a stop about halfway to first base.  The runner on third must have enough confidence in the attempted bunt that he starts running for home as soon as the pitcher commits to the pitch.  If executed properly, this “squeezes” out all play choices except a throw to first and the runner scores.  This play is full of risk and is usually saved for late innings of close games.

Sacrifice bunts are exciting and frustrating for me at the same time.  I mean, sure – if it all works, it’s glorious.  The batter is a hero.  He earns an RBI even though he’s thrown out, and a runner who may have been stranded on base is brought safely home.  But, if it goes badly, it’s a double play and the inning – or game – is over.  Why would anyone want to settle for one RBI and a “non-hit” stat when they could’ve possibly crushed the ball into the seats and scored two runs?  They’d still be a hero right?  But, if the manager calls “bunt”, he can probably see something in the opponent’s defense that requires this special play.  The batter MUST go to the plate and do his best to make that happen because everyone, especially the runner on third, is counting on him.

I’ve never been one who liked decisions that just don’t make any sense to me – Mr. “I. Know Better”.  But sometimes, maybe a lot of times, I DON’T know better.  If life can be looked at like it’s a baseball game, I’m the guy who didn’t always listen to my “coaches” but did it my way instead; always “swinging for the fence” but seldom getting there.  Now it’s in late innings and, purely by God’s mercy and grace, I find myself on third base, but unable to get “home” unless God does something to help me get there.  Well – He already did; for everyone.

Jesus willingly going to the cross for me was the ultimate sacrifice bunt.  The Jewish people were all looking to Him to be their Home Run King – the guy who would hit that bottom of the ninth, bases loaded grand slam; the one who would rally them to beat their opponents and lead them to glory; He was certainly capable of that.  Instead, God called down the play.  Jesus followed His batting instructions by spreading his hands apart on that wood and laying down the perfect bunt, sacrificing Himself so this sinner could make it safely home, sliding into Heaven on a squeeze play; and the angels in the stands rejoiced!

© 2017 Curt Savage Media

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How we see things is determined by our perspective.  For instance, you can’t tell how long a pencil is if you’re staring at it from the eraser end.  You also cannot tell how large a room is if you’re sitting in that room in total darkness.  Have you ever stood at the edge of a high, scenic overlook and looked out over a large city?  The complexity of the street layout and the character of the neighborhoods is impossible to see from that vantage point.  In a jet flying along at thirty thousand feet, a person can see entire counties, but the horizon still conceals what lies just beyond the place where it meets the sky.

Have you ever held an 1,800 foot tall building in your hand?  How about the sun?  A favorite beach photo is one of me and my friends “holding up” the setting sun in an attempt to keep it from sinking into the ocean.  From the right spot in Lake Ontario, you can “hold” the CN Tower between your thumb and index finger.  The same can be done with the Washington Monument and the Statue of Liberty.  This is amazing considering when you’re standing at the base of the CN Tower, it’s so huge you can’t lean back far enough to see the top of it!

Maybe that’s it.  When we’re really close to things, they look bigger; maybe even bigger than they really are.  This can make intimidating things look absolutely life-threatening.  From 60 feet up on the navigational bridge of the ships I worked on, 30 foot seas looked big, but our ship was still bigger.  However, when I got in the ship’s small boat and was lowered over the side to go board another vessel, once in the water, those waves looked MUCH bigger.  As we piloted our Zodiac Rigid Hull Inflatable away from our nearly 400 foot ship, the ship got smaller and the waves got bigger; or so it appeared.  That’s because we were now bouncing through waves as big as we were!  We had changed our perspective in relationship to the waves, which remained the same size.  While flying over the same scene aboard a C-130 during a reconnaissance flight, everything below looked tiny and those 30 foot waves looked like ripples in a glass of water.  Unfortunately, the thunderheads that were very near us appeared MUCH bigger than they had seemed from the ocean’s surface.

What about an even higher perspective?  I wonder if God ever stretches out His arm, makes a “C shape” with His thumb and index finger and looks at our “planet-sized” problems between that thumb and finger the same way we look at the Washington Monument, the CN Tower or the Statue of Liberty while playing “tourist” when we travel.  Those landmarks look SO small when we look at them between our fingers, or when a friend takes a photo of one of us holding one of those landmarks in the palm of our hand.  It’s a fun perspective trick.  But with God, it’s no trick.  He really CAN hold our biggest problems between his fingers or in the palm of his hand because He is above all and sovereign over all.

© 2017 Curt Savage Media

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Have a Slice of Pi

Einstein Pie

They say “Pi R Square”, but I’ve always found it to be round. I love pie, but Pi – not so much.  I cannot express my dislike of it.  You could say the thought of Pi makes me irrational.  It makes my thoughts go in circles.  Did I mention that I love pie?  Mathematicians like to express Pi as equal to C over D.  I would like Pi better if it were expressed as equal to ice cream over crust.  The area of a pie plate is in direct proportion to my appetite for pie.  The lack of notes in my geometry books is in direct proportion to my lack of interest in Pi.

Some of my math-smart friends are more into Pi than I am into pie.  They tell me “Pi” is the English spelling of the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet and that the symbol for Pi is derived from the first letter of the Greek word “perimetros” meaning circumference.  This makes sense since the number Pi represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.  The number Pi, which has a constant value that approximately equals 3.14159, is an irrational number; a real number that cannot be expressed as a common fraction and it has an infinite or endless decimal representation, without any repeating pattern.

People who love math and happen to have a lot of time on their hands have come up with something called the “Pi Code”.  I immediately thought they had cracked the code to the security system at Marie Callender’s, but I was incorrect.  The “Pi Code” is an alphanumeric (base 26 or base 27) system by which the digits in Pi, when taken out to a place value of several billion, can be converted in letters of the alphabet and thus reveal words – a giant word search puzzle if you will. The fictional character “Doctor Matrix” (introduced by Martin Gardner in 1960) used to say “properly interpreted, the number “Pi” contains the entire history of mankind.  On the other hand, I know Marie Callender’s contains a lot of pie.

I like to fly in hot air balloons and, like me, my balloon pilot friends like pie.  However, they LOVE their Pi Balls.  A Pi Ball, shot for pilot balloon, can tell you more about the precise launch site weather and winds than just about any app.  This low-tech tool is simply a helium balloon which is released prior to the balloons going up.  We watch the speed and direction of the balloon’s ascent very closely to gain an idea of where our balloons will go once airborne.

With all this love of Pi, it makes sense that March 14th, or 3/14 or 3.14 has become internationally known and celebrated as Pi Day.  On this day, love is all a-round, and a-la-mode.  It also happens to be the birthday of renowned theoretical physicist, musician, artist, mathematician and all-around brainiac Albert Einstein.  I have a theory that we would all gain a relative amount of energy from wishing Dr. Einstein a happy birthday whether it be by enjoying some pie, or some Pi.  Just be careful to keep an eye on your circumference and diameter because those can be affected by pie.

© 2017 Curt Savage Media

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One Gallon of Water

One Gallon of WaterEddie spontaneously shouts out across the workroom floor “I’m doin’ the best I can with what I’ve got.”  Carl responds with “You’ve got a lot!”  Eddie shouts back “Thank you!”

We all have a lot; a lot of material wealth in comparison to some people in the more impoverished places on Earth.   Most of the monetary wealth in the world is concentrated within a very small percentage of the global population.   Not my percentage.  However, the kind of wealth I possess – clean water, safe shelter, adequate food, clothing, personal transportation, discretionary income – is enjoyed by a relative few as well.  It’s said that if you have adequate food, shelter and clothing, you are richer than 75% percent of the people in the world.  I’m thankful for being in the fortunate 25%.  Thankfulness and appreciation for our blessings is something I’ve always tried to teach our children.  Sometimes life gives me a little help with that lesson.

When our sons were in the elementary grades, we used to go to the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh at least a couple of times a year.  On one of our last trips, we spent literally all our money in the Center and left the parking garage headed for home instead of going downtown for treats.  As we waited in line to merge onto the highway, we saw a man standing at the top of the on-ramp going from car to car asking for something.  We didn’t even have any change in the ashtray.  I prepared to just politely dismiss his request and drive on.

The man came up to my open window and surprised me with his request.  He looked parched (a hot summer day) and his voice was hoarse.  Listening to his accent and looking at his manner of dress, he struck me as possibly being an African Immigrant.  He asked “Do you have any water sir?”  His request confused me for a moment. Did he just ask for water?  I always carry water in the van in case of engine overheating or emergencies, but I never thought of this.  I blinked and said “Yes.  I can give you water.”

The boys reached into the back and retrieved the gallon jug.  We had parked in an underground garage and the water was quite cold.  They passed the jug to me and I handed the gallon of cold spring water out the window to this man.  We all watched as he stared in disbelief at the jug.  The man reached in the window and hugged me around the neck and then began to leap in the air while holding the jug over his head shouting “Thank you, thank you, praise God!” over, and over again.  He was smiling and holding out the jug to show all the passing cars as we drove away.

I guess God doesn’t ask us to give what we don’t have, but only asks us to bless others by generously sharing what He has provided for us.  I never thought a gallon of water in the back of our van was a big deal.  Giving something that cost me only fifty cents didn’t make feel particularly generous.  I just didn’t have that much to give, but in that man’s perspective, it was a lot.  Have you got a lot?

© 2017 Curt Savage Media

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The Ice Man

I knew my dark-bthe-ice-manlue blazer was in the closet somewhere.  Exactly where was difficult to say now that the “Lifetime” LED ceiling light fixture had burned out.  I groped around in the dark fully expecting to find myself holding a cat by the neck the next time I withdrew my hand.   My knuckles smacked the sharp corner of a box causing thousands of dollars to tumble across the floor; too bad it was only Monopoly money.  Losing my balance, I lunged into the black void.  The quick flash of a steel blade caught my eye as I fell.

I lay on the floor in the closet with my would-be assailants on my chest.  Judging by the archaic appearance of the attackers, it was obvious they hadn’t seen action in a while.  I clambered around trying to get to my feet as the black clad figures fell to the floor, choking on their own dust.  They kept their grip around my ankles as I extricated myself from the den of doom.  I dragged those culprits with me into the sunlight streaming through the torn window shades.  It was at that moment I recognized them as the Riedell Brothers.

Even from their compromised position on the bedroom floor, the brothers disparaged me.  They recalled a lost passion from my youth; comparing me to a younger, stronger man who paraded in public with scantily clad dancing girls, older “experienced” women and connoisseurs of fine drink.  All of us in the above company could often be found lying tangled in a pile of sweating bodies, our dripping chrome reflecting the glints of the disco ball.  The bothers were right; it was time to feel that old pain again; those tightly tied strings of the past cutting off my circulation.

I fueled up the four-door and blew down Route 422 headed for a date with destiny.  As I wheeled into the driveway, my accomplices were waiting for me.  We stuffed the Riedell Brothers in the trunk to keep ‘em from clamoring; we figured they’d try to cut us if they got close enough.  Riding down 19 in the dark, we didn’t know what to expect.  We were going on a tip; take the brothers to Mario’s joint.  There, it would be easy to put ‘em on ice without drawing a lot of attention.  Good thing. I didn’t want to break any legs or heads.

We walked right in the front door like we owned the house.  Mario was nowhere to be seen even though his name was all over the place.  The lights were low and the music was loud. That made it easy to sneak the Riedells in and tie them up.  My Lieutenant moved upstairs to keep an eye from on high while me and my girl took out the brothers.  “This is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done” she said as we worked our way across the floor, looking to blend in.  I was ready to make up for lost time and keep a promise; the first dance at the Lemieux proved it.  I had my daughter by the hand and the Riedells on my feet and it felt great!  It was her first time on the ice, and my first time back on it since throwing the Riedells in the closet 20 years ago.  I might just find myself skating through the rest of my life.

© 2017 Curt Savage Media

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You’ve senarcissusen those pretty, trumpet-shaped, long-stemmed flowers that pop up through the snow in early spring here in the northern United States.  They’re a genus of the Amaryllis family.  We know them better as Daffodils, Paperwhites and Jonquils.  There are almost too many varieties of Narcissi to count.  I recently saw a pistachio green cultivar that I didn’t particularly care for.  I prefer the white and yellow varieties that self-install, or “naturalize”, themselves across our northern landscape.  Clumps of them can be seen blooming on hillsides, along highways, next to fence posts and even between cracks in sidewalks.  The Narcissus is amazingly adept at popping up where least expected and uninvited; even where unwanted.

Persistence in self-assertion seems to be the key to their proliferation; The Narcissus’ amazing ability to find a foothold, root, survive and even flourish on the edges of places they shouldn’t belong.  Let’s see a show of hands; who’s bought those potted and forced Paperwhites in the floral section of the grocery store, taken them home to enjoy and then tossed them out next to the trash cans after they whither?  You can’t throw them in the can because you need to shake them out into the compost pile and recycle the pot, right?  But the trash cans are closer to the door than the bins or the pile, so there they sit – for months!  Next spring, guess what?  Up through the covering of fall leaves – blossoms!  The same thing happens when I divide out clumps of daffodils and forget to replant the separated bulbs.  I’ve tried to blame the phenomenon on horticultural squirrels, but now we know better.

The Narcissus plant is not to be confused with Narcissus of Roman mythological legend, although I consider that Narcissus to be a bit of a blooming idiot – sorry.  The story, written by Ovid the Poet of first century BC Italy, in the third book of his “Metamorphoses”, tells the story of a young hunter, Narcissus, who spends much of his time in the woods.  A mountain nymph named Echo falls in love with Narcissus and follows him through the woods.  He calls out to her “Who’s there?” but, because of a curse placed upon Echo by Hera the wife of Zeus, she can only reply with Narcissus’ words “Who’s there?”  Narcissus, being annoyed, rejects her love.  Heartbroken, she retreats to the glens and wastes away until all that is left is her voice, which we call an echo.  Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, learns of Narcissus’ self-centered cruelty and lures Narcissus to a pool where he drinks, then sees, and falls deeply in love with “all the things for which he himself is admired.”  His love being unrequited by the image in the pool, Narcissus wastes away in the same manner as Echo.  Legend says a trumpet shaped flower appeared in the place where his body had been; the Narcissus flower.

This story is where we get the word “narcissist” from.  The term can refer to anyone who is self-absorbed, self-centered or in love with themselves.  A managed and appropriate level of self-love is mentally, emotionally and even physically healthy – especially in a world where other “lovers of self” are predatory practitioners of the Dark Triad of the personality traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy.  However, one must be careful not to overindulge “the self” or we could end up with a society full of narcissists popping up all over the place like the much-preferred narcissi; or are they in bloom already?

© 2017 Curt Savage Media

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