Friday, December 30, 2016

Expressions of Faith: Don't be Ashamed

However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
(1 Peter 4:16 NIV)

Don’t be Ashamed

This verse is based on personal experience of Peter.

In Acts, we read of Peter and John being taken before the Sanhedrin.
[Gamaliel’s] speech persuaded [the Sanhedrin]. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Acts 5:40-41

Only after being punished for preaching Christ are the sent away. 

Peter and James are rejoicing as the leave for being considered worthy to suffer for The Gospel.

Next time someone rolls their eyes when you mention a Christian principle as an example, don't be ashamed!

Keep on with doing what you know Christ wants you to do.

May God bless you in the coming year!

Next Friday's Expression of Faith Series: Difficult Salvation?

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Timeless Truths: Unlikely Missionaries

This Timeless Truth is "all me." I did write it years ago, so it meets my criteria for "timeless." It's based on Scripture, which is "truth."

It's something I need to think about as we head into 2017. 
Maybe you do, too. 
Just sayin' . . .

Happy New Year!

Unlikely Missionaries
By Chuck Downing

When you hear the term “missionary,” some image comes to your mind. Maybe it’s an elderly maiden lady, or a grizzled man, or maybe it’s something else. I invite you to read along. Then, follow the simple instructions for a “do it yourself activity” at the end of this devotional.
Jesus tells the parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22: 1-10. The Scripture in this font is from the NIV.
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.
Let’s set the stage. God is the king. Jesus is the son. The wedding banquet can be analogous to the church.
He [the king] sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
So, we’ve got guests who know what they’re supposed to be doing but choose not to do it. This can be anyone who is aware of God’s plan but ignores the prompting of the Holy Spirit and those Christians around him/her.
"Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' "But they paid no attention and went off--one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
I’m not going to attempt to explain what all is implied in this portion of the parable. Suffice it to say that God is not real happy with people who know what they’re supposed to do but refuse to do it. Or worse, treat those who are doing His work shamefully.
"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.'
God invites everyone to be part of His church. We, as servants, have a job: Go and invite those who don’t know much, if anything, about spiritual things to be part of God’s plan. 

Hey, wait! That sounds like what missionaries do. 

Good. You’re paying attention.
So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
God’s servants actively gather those who need God. They don’t stop this task until the whole wedding hall is filled.
Okay. But this part of the story begins with a sparsely populated wedding hall (the church—not a church building, but the church as an entity). 

And we’ve got individuals who don’t know about the wedding. 
Who are those folks?
I submit they could be people in foreign lands—the classic definition of a mission field. However, if you read the story, you’ll notice that these servants stayed right around the local palace. Not only that, they gathered all kinds of local people—townspeople.
I like this image of the servants gathering "all kinds of local people" for the wedding feast.
So, what’s all this got to do with missions? 

I don’t think if you asked the servants what they were doing that any of them would have responded, “missions work.” They would have said, “We’re doing what the Master requires.” However, the servants sound a lot like missionaries to me.
Try this "do it yourself activity." (Remember, I told you to be ready for one.) 
To uncover the identity of one of these servants
q  Go into your bathroom.
q  Make sure the light is turned off.
q  Stand facing the mirror with your eyes closed.
q  Turn on the light and open your eyes.

You’re looking at a missionary. One who’s called to “missions work” right where you live, with all kinds of townspeople you know, work with, or live around.
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Monday, December 26, 2016

A Science Guy's Almanac: Do Teachers have a Favorite Student?

If you ask many teachers,
“Who’s your favorite student?”
they very likely to diplomatically respond with something like,
“Oh, I don’t really have favorites. I like them all.”
As a teacher in high schools and universities for 45 years, I submit this commentary with all due respect:
“That’s probably a crock!”

If you are one my students, all of whom are collectively “my kids,” please don’t be offended by what follows. I do have a favorite student. I always will.
My favorite of all time is Babi Scott.
That DOES NOT MEAN that any of the rest of you are not favorites—I can state without a twinge of guilt that I have been disproportionately blessed with outstanding young people in my classrooms.
I could list the names of many students of mine who made “above and beyond” efforts on my behalf. I won’t list any names, but I will list some of the generous acts on my behalf that have been made.
·      Flying from Chicago to San Diego to be at my retirement celebration and helping with the set-up.
·      Meeting me with regularity of coffee to talk about our lives.
·      Confiding to me issues that I now pray for daily—issues that demonstrate the character of those individuals.
·      Kept over a dozen letters I wrote in response to letters written to me by a student while in college.
·      Reading my blog posts.
·      Contacting me to relate a heart-warming story of how I impacated them.

It’s time to “get on with this blog post.” I hope you get at least a taste of how I feel about each and every one “my kids.” If you are in that group, may God especially bless you!

I got a phone call early in the morning on January 1, 2007. It was one of the worst phone calls I’ve every received. The tearful voice of Babi’s husband told me that she had taken her life sometime late New Year’s Eve. I don’t know how many people he called that night, I’ve asked myself many times since then:
Why call me? I was only her high school biology teacher.
I’ve given up wondering that. I realize that I wasn’t “only her biology teacher.” I was her friend. He called me because she often talked about our times together. I am humbled by that.

I wrote this for her memorial service in January 2007. I cried when I wrote it. I choke up every time I read it or tell the story.
I sent a copy to Babi’s parents. I was told they read it at her memorial service. I am humbled by that gesture.

What follows is written in loving memory of a life that was far too short.

Babi Scott is my favorite student.
Let me put that into perspective. I’m in my 34th year of teaching. I’ve had, as an estimate, 4000 students. Babi is my favorite. Not was, but is and will be as long as I have a memory.
I cannot imagine another student taking first place as my favorite from her. I suppose that is possible, but I don’t think any teacher is fortunate enough to have two like Babi in a career.
Babi was my biology student for two courses over two years. The second year course was entirely elective: Advanced Placement Biology. It was not, nor has it become since, and easy course. I’m not sure that Babi liked science as much as she liked my teaching, and me as a person; it was her fondness for me that caused her to take “the hardest class at Monte Vista” as an elective her Senior year.
I’ve had other students take AP Biology and tell me it was “because you are the teacher.” I’ve had many students not as academically gifted as Babi (not that she was a slouch, but some of my students were very bright people) who were favorites of mine. I’ve even had some students who took the time to make contact with me after graduation.
However, Babi went far beyond any and all of that. She made contact after she graduated . . .  for 22 years! She learned not only my birthday but how many birthdays I’d had. Every year, I’d get a “pig-themed” birthday card from Babi. Sometimes there were small piggy gifts as well. There were also letters and phone calls, and later, e-mail exchanges. Two friends were communicating, but she was the initiator.
She moved to Kansas, always a source of kidding from me. One year, I attended a conference in Kansas City. She drove a long way to have dinner and spend some time with me. In retrospect, I now know how much that cost her physically. I am deeply touched by the gesture.
I suspect I was one of the first to receive news of new jobs, or other events. I know that she always took the time to visit me and my family when she came back to San Diego. In fact, she’d call me first to find out how to arrange the rest of her time to be sure we could get together.
The living world is a lesser place without Babi.
I am honored to have been known as her friend.
With love and unabashed tears,
Babi’s teacher.

It is my hope that you got a bit of insight into the impact my students made in my life through this blog post. I wish I could tell each of “my kids” how much they mean to me in person.

Mr. Downing. Coach. The Chief Chuckaroo. Dr. D.

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Expressions of Faith: Advent 3 of 3. Magi: Men of Mystery, Misinformation, and More

This is the final Advent Expression of Faith.
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.  5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:  6 “ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”  7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Matthew 2:1-12

For many years, one of my nephews was certain that the first verse of “Help Me, Rhonda” by The Beach Boys was:
Since you’ve been gone, there’s been owls puking in my bed.
I can’t find fault in that interpretation myself. If the line’s not that, I don’t know what it is. I’m pausing while you open a new browser tab, open YouTube and find the song.
Now that you’ve heard the first line, don’t you agree . . . at least a little.

Rocket Man by Elton John has a line in it, I finally heard correctly about a year ago—44 years after it’s release. Here’s the line as it is written:
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone
I thought it was about a defunct telephone.

In some ways, the magi are kind of like one of those song lyrics. There is what the song really says. Then, there’s what you’ve heard or thought you’ve heard.

For real, the Magi:
      ·     were from the East. No specific country is mentioned, but it’s not Eastern
      ·      represent all of the non-Jewish population that Christ came to save.
[The Lord is] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

        ·      brought gifts to the Messiah that represented stages of His life: Gold for
            His Kingship,  Frankincense for His priesthood, Myrrh for His death.
       ·        knew Old Testament prophecy to some degree. They went to Jerusalem
           expecting the established church leadership to know what was going on.
       ·      were looking, not just lucky.

For not real, the Magi
       ·      were three in number. This number is derived from the gifts listed.
       ·      visited Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem. Matthew tells us that Herod sent
           them to Bethlehem. He then says that
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Matthew 2:9,11

        ·      there is no mention of going to Bethlehem or a manger.
        ·      there is mention of a house—maybe in Nazareth. Joseph would have taken          his family home soon after the circumcision on the 8th day after Jesus’

Additional Information
        ·      Herod orders the killing of all male children 2-years-old and younger. The
            implication is that nearly that much time had passed since the Magi left the 
       ·      When Joseph returns to Judea after fleeing to Egypt to avoid Herod’s death 
           order, he goes to Nazareth—his home.

So, what do I take away from the Magi’s visit?
        1.    Be looking for where God is.
        2.   Go where God shows you He is.
        3.   Worship God regardless of what the circumstances are.
        4.   Give Christ your best

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