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FullSizeRenderThe sun broke through the rain clouds.  A vigorous storm drenched the ranch just outside of Gonzales, Texas.  The Ranch Boss and I were riding the range on his ATV.

Four wheel drive did not even hesitate at any barricade whether water, mud or wash.  We bounced over the terrain looking for any work that his ranch hands needed to add to their work lists.  In his mind he had a checklist that he made notations on a scouting trip like this.

One alert was his animals.  There were a lot of beasts on his acreage.  Some of the animals were tough and could withstand almost any kind of adversity.

There were other critters, however, that had some vulnerabilities.  They were smaller.  A predator would easily choose one of these animals for a meal than the beasts that could defend itself in woods.

While we scanned the acres for problems from the storm, we also looked for anything unusual.  The “Oh, oh” that the Ranch Boss uttered caught my attention.  When I looked at him, he just pointed up in the sky, “Gotta believe the birds.”

He threw his ATV into gear and spun the steering wheel.  Our casual scout now had a specific objective in mind.  The vultures spelled death and that was never good news to a rancher.

We bounced through the woods.  He dodged fallen logs, bogs and massive trees.  Our forward progress came to an abrupt end.

The muddy ground made us skid for a long stretch. When we came to a halt, the Ranch Boss did not need to say much.  We both were socked in the face with the wretched stench of rotting flesh.

The vultures have been specifically designed by the Creator to clean up the woods.  When an animal dies, they find it.  Together a flock of these powerful creatures eat up the rotting flesh with relish.

The flies and the maggots wrap up the details.  There is no more need for human intervention.  This is one ranch critter that will no longer roam in the fields.

We made a hasty exit.  What God had design to finish up the circle of life we left to operate without disruption.  Fresh air was just a 50 feet away.

The birds signaled other birds in the area to join them.  These feathered scavengers attracted more of their kind.  A great flock gathered and told any who could see that their morbid work was almost done.

Israel 2008 445It was an ancient city with people living ancient cultures.  The problems were enormous.  Political figures were greedy, power-hungry, egotistical and full of self-centered pride.

Entertainment at the expense of the people was rampant.  Hostility was waiting for any excuse to erupt.  Military incursions were a daily affair.

Good people were losing hope.  Power was in the hands of officials who bent the law to satisfy their personal agenda.  Anger and intimidation overpowered reason, righteousness and love.

The world had sunk to a level where authorities would murder children to cover their own infractions and advance their influence.  Might was the premier.  Yet, the immoral posture of those in power had massive doubt.

To ameliorate the uncertainty and unrest among the population, appeasement was common place.  Bargaining to keep the general population below their boiling point was a part of the “passing the buck” and shifting blame and destroying the truth with bribery and false testimony.  Was any hope to be found for the human race so long ago?

Hope sprang eternal with a single sacrifice.  One died on behalf of the many.  It was not just a volunteer who stepped forward.

Rather it was the only one who could be a substitute for all.  Even the very wicked were represented by the perfect sacrifice of love.  Jesus, the Christ, willingly gave Himself as a substitutionary death for all.

That is Good Friday.  An ignominious death so long ago has impacted the eternity of all forever and ever.  His one submissive act to have His blood shed gave all mankind hope through the amazing grace of God’s redemption.

Yes, that is a mouthful.  However, it was that magnificent.  It was such a phenomenal act of mercy that even the world’s worst had a chance to turn, repent and believe.

That is why Good Friday is good.  It was a horrible day because of the death of the only perfect One.  Yet, it was the best event for mankind in anticipation of the new life to come.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Israel 2014 IFL 341

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken,
I’m accepted, You were condemned.
I am alive and well, Your sprit is within me,
Because You died and rose again.

Amazing love,
How can it be?
That You, my King would die for me?
Amazing love,
I know it’s true.
It’s my joy to honor You,
In all I do, I honor You.

Israel 2014 IFL 336

photo credit: brucefong photography

the Garden, where Jesus prayed before He was crucified for our sins

33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice,

“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”

—which means,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said,

“Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

36 One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink.

“Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,”

he said.

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said,

“Surely this man was the Son of God!”

Mark 15.33-39 NIV84
narrative arrangement by Bruce Fong

 

He is a Fong.  Our family has many special members both human and not-quite human.  One of them is Nemo. 

Nemo is a Lhasa Apso.  The Chinese called them Lion dogs because of their mane.  They are often portrayed in stone guarding the entrance to important places like palaces or homes of dignitaries. 

They are a determined breed.  Diminutive in size, they have a heart that will challenge a foe twice their size.  No, they are not vicious, just courageous.

Once the serenity of life has returned, they are quite docile.  Now, that they have driven off the threat to their family, they soak in the attention, petting and pampering.  They return the affection with deep sighs, comical play and unexplainable personality that beams from their Star Wars Ewok looks.

Their face will melt your heart.  Add antics and individuality to that already winning combination and you have a family member that is a favorite  of everyone.  You have to reach out and hug these guys.

Nemo is one of our family members.  He lives in Oregon with our daughter and son-in-law.  Over the years he has brought many laughable memories to our gatherings.

Now, after weeks of fighting cancer, he has lost the battle.  Yesterday, he was gently put to sleep to end the pain and suffering.  Each of us Fong’s wept at the loss of this special life that gave so much and took so little.   We will miss him.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Those who follow Jesus have an unshakable comfort with their mortality.  We know that when our life on earth ends, we are assured of a heavenly home.  This is a promise that will never be disappointed.  Instead, we are confident that God has built us a special place for our eternity; it is reserved for us.

Nevertheless, our heavenly future is God’s hands.  It is His time to assign to us.  Therefore, we make every effort to make this life spiritually productive. 

Our desire is difficult to hide.  With every ache, pain, illness or health limitation we long to be with God in our new home and in our new bodies.  That day our new bodies will be fantastic!  There will be no regrets, fears or limitations any longer.

We can actually compare our heavenly home to our earthly bodies as if we are currently living in tents.  It is a shelter but it is temporary.  Certainly, it is not our final home.

In many ways we actually feel unprotected, vulnerable to dangers and have so many limitations to living in nomadic quarters.  That desire to be in our heavenly home is a natural longing.  Mortality is nice, but it will be great to finally get to our eternal abode.

This isn’t a pipe dream either.  God has His purpose sealed for us.  His Spirit affirms in our confidence that real life is not in this lifetime but when we are with Jesus forever.

There is a certainty among us followers of Jesus.  We are sure that it is this life, as much as we like it, is actually keeping us from being with Jesus forever.  This is faith living at its best.  It is eternal thinking at the source.

As we mature in our faith, we must learn to live not just by what our earthly eyes see.  Rather, we must also look through the eyes of faith and ponder what will be forever.  Whenever that transition occurs for us, it will be glorious.

Since God is the sovereign one who determines when we cross into His presence, we find that it is wisest to live to please Him, to honor Him while in this body.  He will be our final judge for eternity.  How we lived our lives for Him will be measured by His determination.

2 corinthians 5.1-10

photo credit: google image

On my way to work today, traffic flowed like usual. The sun was shining brightly through my windshield, like usual. There is always a goofy driver who depends on the safe driving of most of the other vehicles on the road like usual.

When I turned on to Sunset Boulevard, the city bus was in front of me forcing me to slow down or pass like usual. Pedestrians, actually teenagers on their way to school took their sweet time using the cross walk and slowing down traffic, like usual. Joggers were huffing and puffing along the lake, like usual.

Once I got off the Boulevard and drove through a business district on Noriega, a service truck ran a stop sign, did not look left and cut me off. It was illegal, but I have seen that move often, like usual. Of course I shook my head, like usual.

When I got to my office, I realized that I had forgotten my keys, not usual but not unusual either. I had my keyless pass so that I got into the building, like usual. Our office staff just laughed at me and used the master-key to open my office door, like usual.

But, today is not usual as a Friday. In fact it is very unusual. Today is Good Friday.

We call it Good because a very good and amazing thing happened on this day thousands of years of ago. Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world. That is very unusual.

As the Son of God He gave Himself as a substitute for all people. He paid for the penalty of sin, which is death for everyone. The Father in Heaven accepted this sacrifice, was satisfied that the price for sin had been paid by the death of His only Son.

He who knew NO sin became sin for us. Wow! This is not usual.

It is rare that a person will give up his life for someone he loves. But, how often will someone give up his life for someone who hates him? That would be unusual but that is exactly what Christ did for us.

Can you pause from your usual life to consider what we commemorate on this day? Then, thank Him, praise Him, worship Him for His unusual sacrifice. If you have never accepted Him as your Savior, then do it. He wants to be YOUR Savior.

photo credit: google image

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