A race of men detested for their evil practices.

One of the things we’re sharing with our Sunday morning class is the importance of the resurrection to the book of Acts.  The historical, factual resurrection of Jesus from the dead fueled the fire of the early church.  The apostles rarely opened their mouths without mentioning the resurrection. 

The resurrection was shocking.  Unbelievable.  And yet all the claims of Jesus pivot on the resurrection.  The resurrection either happened or it did not.  If it didn’t, then Jesus was either crazy or a liar.  On the other hand, if the resurrection did take place then…

Anyway, along with our study of the resurrection we’re also looking at some relevant history as it pertains to the New Testament church.  If you haven’t seen it before I thought some of you might want to see this stuff.  That is what this post is about.

Tacitus was born around 56-57 A.D.  He is considered by many scholars as one of the  greatest historians of ancient Rome.  Of course Rome wasn’t “ancient” when he was alive, and the history he wrote about was still fairly recent.  Of himself he said, “I have no wish to deny my career owed its beginning to Vespasian (Emperor of Rome 69-79 A.D.) its progress to Titus (Emperor 79-81) and its further advancement to Domitian (Emperor 81-96).

I guess you could say he was well connected.

On July 18, 64 A.D. a fire began in the Circus Maximus in Rome and soon the imperial city was largely engulfed in flames.  That is a fact of history.  As to how the fire began no one will ever really know.  Tacitus and others blamed Nero who was emperor at the time.  Evidently Nero aspired to build an even grander capital city, but there was little enthusuiasm for his proposal.  It was seen as an uneccessary and highly expensive vanity project.  That he wanted to rename the rebuilt Rome “Neropolis” didn’t help his case much.

A city wide fire was seen as being just a little too convenient to a displaced and soot covered populace.  Now Nero could have his new city.  And the citizens of the newly burned old city were outraged.  They wanted blood -Nero’s blood – until Nero found someone else to blame.  This is what Tacitus had to say…  Nero affixed the blame to…

a race of men detested for their evil practices and commonly called Chrestiani.  The name was derived from Chrestus, who, in the reign of Tiberius, suffered under Pontius Pilate, Procurator of Judea.  By that event the sect of which he was the founder received a blow which for a time checked the growth of a dangerous superstition: but it revived soon after, and spread with recruited vigor not only in Judea…but even in the city of Rome, the common sink into which everything infamous and abominable flows like a current from all quarters of the world.

Nero proceded with his usual artifice.  He found a set of profligate and abandoned wretches who were induced to confess themselves guilty; and on the evidence of such men a number of Christians were convicted, not indeed on clear evidence of having set the city on fire, but rather on account of their sullen hatred of the whole human race.  They were put to death with exquisite cruelty, and to their sufferings Nero added mockery and derision.  Some were covered with skins of wild beasts, and left to be devoured by dogs; others were nailed to crosses; numbers of them were burned alive; many, covered with inflammable matter, were set on fire to serve as torches during the night….At length the brutality of these measures filled every breast with pity.  Humanity relented in favor of the Christians.

Pretty interesting stuff on several levels.  First of all it’s fascinating to see how secular historians of the day saw the church.  To them it was a sect.  Detested for their evil practices.  A dangerous superstition.  Infamous and abominable.  Accused of having a sullen hatred of the whole human race.

Bear in mind – Tacitus was a historian.  He didn’t sit at a desk and make stuff up.  When he wrote and published his works there were still many people alive who would have disputed the rendering of raw facts which were known not to be true.  For example, a date would be a raw fact.  Something either did or didn’t happen on any such date.  Now as to what motivated people on such a certain day the historian might fill in the blanks, or add color to the story based on his research or bias.  For example, while many people may have believed Christianity was a “dangerous superstition” it does not mean it was.  Tacitus may be simply reporting what a majority of the people thought, or he is coloring his raw data with his bias.

As to the raw research – the facts which provide the basis of his story – they are stunning.  Here we have a secular historian, who lived not far removed from the actual events, writing to people who had first hand knowledge of many of these events.  This is what Tacitus discovered in his historical research…

Fact. Chrestiani- a sect.  Fact. Chrestus- founder of the sect.  Fact. Pontus Pilate, Procurator of Judea- the founder suffered under his reign and received a blow which checked the growth of the sect.  Fact.  the sect grew not only in Judea but even in the city of Rome.  Fact.  Christians existed and were persecuted by Nero for burning Rome.

These facts and this information have nothing to do with the Bible.  Tacitus is not defending the church, Christians or Jesus.  He is simply reporting history as it happened during the reign of Nero.  He wasn’t trying to deny the existence of Christ or the church either.  He wasn’t trying to say, “supposedly” there was this guy known as Chrestus blah,blah,blah.  For Tacitus, Chrestus was an indisputable fact of history.

As to who Chrestus was, what he said, how he lived and what his true purpose was- well, the New Testament does an excellent job of filling in the blanks, don’t you think?

 

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My first sermon.

I love the church of today very much.  I also love the church I knew as a young man.  The church of the late seventies and early eighties was the perfect place for me to be nurtured in my faith.  Youth rallies seemed to happen every other week, mixed “bathing” was still frowned upon and  Acappella was four or five guys in matching three piece suits singing about Atom Bombs and Water in the Plan. 

I was a runner on the JOY Bus which  meant I was up early every Saturday for a morning pep rally followed by a grueling few hours trying to visit all the kids on our route.  It was tough.  People just don’t like to answer their doors on Saturday morning.  A lot of the kids we picked up lived in trailer parks which meant we could hear someone run to the door at the sound of our knock.  I guess they didn’t like who they saw through the peephole because we would oftentimes hear the sound of their footsteps reverse course.  However, the allure of free, all you could eat donuts every Saturday morning was enough to keep me on the Joy Bus for several years.

The church I grew up in was in the four to five hundred range in Sunday morning attendance.  Not a huge church, but not a small one either.  We had three full time ministers and several full time office staff.  We had the typical three big meeting times per week and even had a pot luck every Wednesday before class.  It was awesome.  The pot luck.  Okay, class was too.  One of the things I really, really loved about my home church youth group was the fact we had a devo EVERY Sunday following evening services.  They were always well attended too.

This is the church where I was given my first opportunity to preach.  The youth group was assigned a Sunday night to conduct the entire service.  Lord’s Supper included.  Singing too.  I was one of three young men asked to speak.  I was only fifteen.  Let me tell you something – at the time I was a complete, one hundred percent introvert.  A bookworm.  A nerd.  Socially awkward times a million.  If I had died the people who sat next to me in school would have never noticed I wasn’t there anymore. 

However, I loved Jesus a lot and my youth minister, Randy Green,  believed in me.  That’s why he asked.  That’s why I accepted.  Plus he helped the three of us.  We came up with an idea and he helped us turn it into a mini-sermon.  He taught us how to turn Bible verses into outlines.  I still have my original, first ever sermon outline.  I preached on the Love of God.  My handwriting was so terrible I can hardly read what I wrote but it looks pretty as I wrote it in red and green ink.  What’s funny is the outline form I used on that sermon is the very one I still use all these years later. 

There is a big difference between what’s on a page and how it comes out of one’s mouth.  Trust me- before we got up to speak on that Sunday night we knew word for word what we would say.  That’s because we had to practice our sermonettes over and over in front of Randy.  Till we knew them by heart.

When I listened to the tape afterwards I was humiliated and thrilled at the same time.  I didn’t realize as I was actually preaching  that I kept making some sort of weird clucking noise.  Almost at every pause.  On the other hand,  preaching that sermon, clucking notwithstanding, was a stunning accomplishment for me.  This turtle began to poke it’s head out

After evening services were concluded that Sunday the three of us were mobbed by an adoring church.  We were a hit.  Even if most of the church had to tell Christian lies to make us think so.  Right then and there I decided I wanted to be a minister.  I liked saying things that helped people.  I wanted to do it forever.

Since that era the church has made some progress in much needed areas.  However, one of the the things I miss are the opportunities our young men had to flap their wings in public ministry.  It seems to me we were much more democratic in those days as far as giving a broader spectrum of boys and men an opportunity to preach or lead a song.

Today it appears that many of our mid to large size congregations are moving away from Sunday evening services in favor of small groups.  I like small groups.  Or at least I like mine.  Yet, dispensing with one of our public services has removed what had been a great lab for developing future ministers.  I’m almost certain that if I had not been given the chance to preach dorky little sermons on several ocassions in Conroe, Texas I would have never chosen the path I eventually walked. 

Can you remember the day when a line of nervous boys waited to take their turn at the mic to lead a song?  After they announced the page number (twice) everyone held their breath till they got that first unpredictable note out.  Of course it didn’t really matter how the first note came out because the real song leaders were sitting on the first pew poised to come to the aid of any wide eyed would be song leader.  Sometimes you could have eaten supper in the gap of time between the end of the chorus and the start of the next verse.

Now that we are obsessed with presenting a more polished or professional image I wonder what that means for our future.  As we move away from the practice of a priesthood of believers in public worship into more narrowly defined public roles I wonder what impact it will have.  I wonder how many great preachers or awesome song leaders are sitting in mid to large size churches who will never preach or lead worship because that spark of talent was never fanned to flame by a loving home church.

As for me, for all the good and all the bad of my entire adult life – for every sermon or lesson I taught – for every youth rally or retreat I was invited to – for every person I have ever encountered in ministry – for me it all began on a Sunday night when three petrified teens were challenged by elders and ministers to preach the word.  Afterwards, the kind words of my home church still ring in my spirit as they sought to praise the three of us to greatness.

Like a great ball team always developing future talent my life was changed by the foward vision and investment of my home team.  I couldn’t have asked for better or more faithful coaches.

What is your home church doing to actively develop future talent?

A spiritual weight loss program- that really works.

Thus far I’ve been blessed.  I’ve never had to stuggle with carrying too much weight.  I was told all that would change when I hit the big three oh but that was twelve years ago and I still weigh about the same as I did in high school.  This doesn’t mean that I haven’t struggled with a negative body image – it’s just been a different sort of struggle.  But a struggle nonetheless.

On Saturday Memorial Drive lost a huge part of its heart when David Kellams died.  He was way too young.  He struggled with obesity and it killed him.  For the last several years David lived in a nursing home and came to church when his health permitted.  He was a great man of God.  So loving.  So gentle.  So Christ-like.  When he was feeling good there was hardly a day when my in-box didn’t have several e-mails from him.  They were normally prayer requests he sent out to Memorial members.  They were rarely requests for himself but were filled with requests for the residents of his nursing home.  I will miss having them as a regular part of my little on-line universe.

David hated his weight.  He did everything he could do to lose it.  For whatever reason he just couldn’t do it.  However, instead of being totally consumed and fixated on his body he majored in being like Jesus.  Because of this when his spirit fled a broken down body on Saturday he discovered that living for Jesus is the ultimate and permenant weight loss program.

Since I read the e-mail telling me that David had died I’ve asked Jesus several times for a favor.  My prayer is that Jesus will create a beach in heaven just for David.  I’d like to think that David is currently wearing a speedo and strutting his stuff on a beach where the sun never sets, in a body that will forever be perfect.  He deserves it.

We really aren’t here for long, are we?

It doesn’t take much.

Several years ago a preacher friend of mine said in a sermon “more people die from broken hearts than from swollen heads.”  I don’t know if he made that up or if it was just the first time I heard that particular “old saying.”  It certainly does sound like a cliche.  Kind of corny too.  Even if it is a corny cliche I like it.

I’ve already told you elsewhere that one of my guiding philosophies, whether in ministry or at McDonalds, is it is much more effective to praise people to greatness as opposed to beating them there.  Everyone likes to be liked and when we are free with our praise or go out of our way to tell a person why we like them it can make a radical difference.

For example, I might tell a person in my youth group, “Hey, I’m really glad that you are in this youth group.  Here’s why__________.  And besides all that I like you.”

It is so much fun to make people happy and when you tell a kid you like them for whatever reason it does several things.  For them it’s empowering, not defeating. It also builds a two way life-changing relationship.  I found that kids will worship loud and proud in a room with bare walls and naked light bulbs because they know they are loved.  As they grow comfortable telling one another what it is they like about each other it also cuts way down on expenses.  The need to wine and dine them begins to diminish.  The fewer “broken hearts” the more ministering hearts.

I’ve seen it work at McDonalds too.  I’d tell a co-worker, “I want you to know I like you and I feel lucky to work with you.”  They hardly know how to deal with it.  It’s almost jarring to here such talk in the workplace.  I can tell you that our particular store had a very low turnover rate in comparison to the national average.  People like to be liked.  People like to be encouraged.

 I said all that to say that I was liked and encouraged in this way yesterday.

I’ve been co-teaching the book of Acts for a Sunday morning Bible class.  It’s been a bit of an adjustment for me because I’ve never co-taught before nor have I taught an adult class for an entire quarter.  For these reasons, and others I’m sure,  I have felt like my game has been a bit off.  You know – ineffective.  So anyway yesterday after class one of my elders, Ron Magnusson, caught me before I could escape to the safety of the auditorium.  I’m glad he did.

He went out of his way to tell me how great he thought yesterdays class was.  In fact he used three “reallys” as in really good.  Here I wanted to crawl away and one of my elders wanted to tell me “great job.”

It didn’t require much effort on his part to tell me what he thought.  But let me tell you- when he was done I felt praised to greatness.  I thought about his words all day on Sunday, and they were the thoughts which carried me to la la land when I went to bed.  His kindness, enthusiasm and expressed praise will keep my boat afloat for at least another week.

Van Priest, another one of my shepherds, is also in the class.  He too believes in me and seeks to praise me to greatness.  Van and Ron’s words empower me.  They strengthen me.  They make me want to try harder.  They simply make me feel good.  I am thankful.

I guess God knew I needed to be charged up yesterday because Mary Rush, Terry’s wife, also said some very kind things to me about class.  If you don’t know Mary let me tell you- when Mary says something even E.F. Hutton shuts his mouth.

More people die from broken hearts than from swollen heads.  Praise people to greatness in the Kingdom, don’t beat them there.  It doesn’t take much, does it, to verbally affirm the goodness we see in a brother or sister?  Lives can be saved when we do so.  Thank you Ron, Van and Mary.

love ya,

craig

Friday

Well, I’m getting ready to go to Arkansas today.  I’m speaking at a high school retreat for the West Side church of Christ this weekend.  For many years I’ve been blessed to be able to speak at a youth rally this wonderful church hosts every February.  Remember the day when youth rallies seemed to take place every weekend?  It seems to me they are becoming fewer and fewer.  Anyway, this will be the first opportunity I’ve had in all these years to spend quality time with this youth group.  In a way it’s funny because the youth group I started with at the youth rallies is now pushing thirty.  I don’t imagine any of them will be there unless they are very poor students but I look foward to time with the 2007 version.

I like retreats.  Personally, I think Jesus would be more interested in being at a retreat as opposed to a youth rally.  Youth rallies sort of play into our cultural cult of personality.  Although it’s a very small pond if you’re a speaker at a rally the other fish tend to stare or keep their distance.  I’ve been amused and unnerved more than once to be a speaker at a rally and have to visit the men’s room.  You walk in and when the boys in there see who it is all conversation stops.  Their faces plainly indicate their amazement that big fish and small fish have the same needs.  Youth rallies are extremely hard on my bladder.  Especially the older I get.

Retreats are more personal.  I think hanging out with folks is a much more effective form of ministry.  And it cuts both ways.  I’m blessed too.  One of the things I started a long time ago – to keep from getting prideful – was to insist on being treated like every one else at the retreat.  Speakers are just speakers.  Nothing special about them.  They have been gifted to bring a message but they shouldn’t be treated as the center of attention.  That role is well filled by Jesus.  If anyone is treated with special favor at a retreat I say it should be the cooks.

I’ve been amused (dismayed) over the years to hear stories from my preacher friends about guest speakers who insisted on special treatment.  While everyone else is roughing it in a cabin they insist on a hotel.  I simply don’t get it.  I can’t imagine Jesus acting like one kingdom task/gift is more glorious than another.  Knowing Him, if He had the opportunity to be around 30-40 kids for a weekend He’d probably feel like speaking was an actual distraction from the kind of ministry He’d rather be involved in.  You know, sitting around the camp fire ministry, or visting during a meal discipleship.

Anyway, I will be out of pocket until Monday so I hope you have a wonderful and blessed weekend.

Peace to all,

craig

Wednesday Night.

Well, tonight, before class, I filled out paperwork for a new job.  Turns out a friend from church is responsible for beginning a new Tulsa hub for a delievery company.  If everything works out I will work M-F delivering items to pharmacy’s and such.  It won’t interfere at all with my church stuff so I am very grateful.  Still not sure when I’ll start though.  Could be next week or not.  Thanks for your prayers and thoughts.

I talked to Terry on Sunday about the blog booth so I think it’ll be a go.  None of us knows what that means but it will be cool to try and see what happens.  One of my friends, a non-blogger but a blog-reader, wants to know if she can be a part of stuff too.  She wants to meet some of you guys/gals so she can put names and faces together.  Some of you may need to schedule autograph sessions so your fans can meet you.  At the blog booth.  Stay tuned for more info as it becomes available as we make it up.  If you have any suggestions let me know.  Besides chips and salsa at the booth, John.

I taught my little ol’ Jr. High class tonight.  What a great age.  They never stop talking.  It’s never dull.  Some of our older boys are finally beginning to sound like men so the sound of our songs is fuller this year.  This is good – we’ve been all soprano for quite awhile.  Sadly, their man voices come and go at will still and sometimes it takes everything I have to stop the girls from laughing.  Which as you can remember is devastating.  Of course sometimes it takes every bit of self-control I have to not laugh myself.  On the other hand all of them laugh at me all of the time so fair is fair.

We looked at Jesus and Zaccheus tonight.  A sinner seeking Jesus + Jesus seeking sinners = a match made in heaven.  I freely admit that I am a part of that equation and remain eternally grateful for the Jesus part.

Finally a cool fact from American history.  I just finished a book called No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  It’s about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.  The book was fun to read and I learned a thing or two.  Before Pearl Harbor this country was woefully prepared for a major war.  The armed forces were small in number and lacked equipment.  It didn’t help that much of what was being produced militarily was being sent to Europe via The Lend Lease Policy.

Anyway, after Pearl Harbor President Roosevelt challenged the titans of industry and the American people to produce a staggering amount of equipment, planes, ships, tanks etc.  No one believed it could be done – but the president felt otherwise.  The president was correct.

Up to this point Germany had been the world leader in the production of tanks.  They produced 4000 tanks a year.  Hitler demanded an increase in tank production for 1943 – 800 tanks a month!  Incredible.  Couldn’t be done.  Impossible.

Us?  Within nine months of Pearl Harbor – Detroit was producing 4000 tanks a month.

I Wonder What Happened to Him.

Not much is said about him.  Apparently, he was one of the Apostle Paul’s traveling companions.  I don’t know if he travelled with Paul as a co-teacher, or simply as support staff.  I do know it meant he heard great preaching,  saw many converted to Christ and witnessed wonderous miracles of God.

Can you imagine going on a trip with Paul?  How cool would that be?  Paul is the Christian version of the Terminator.  Only Paul was real.  However, like Hollywood’s Terminator Paul kept coming back.  And back.  And back.  And back.  No matter what.

Rocks, rods, whips, shipwrecks and several assassination attempts- Paul survived them all.  With a certain flair.  I especially like the story where Paul was dragged out of Lystra by her bi-polar citizens, then stoned and left for dead.  Imagine his friends shock as they stared at the apostle’s tenderized carcass only to see his eyes pop open.  You can almost hear him saying, “I’m back.”  The truly stunning thing is Paul got up and went right back into the city.  I think he found the mob of killers and as they stared at him with mouths agape said, “Now, as I was saying, before you interrupted me.”

I don’t believe people of the first century were immune to the cult of celebrity.  What I mean is,  if you’re not famous, just hanging out with famous people, if you know any, can be kind of cool in its own way.  My youth minister, Randy Green, was church of Christ famous in the Houston area.  He’s a great song leader.  When I was with him it made me feel kind of famous.  If he sat next to me at a youth rally where he was the song leader I felt special.  I drove more miles with Rex Boyles than I could ever remember- he was famous too.  After a lesson, when Rex was surrounded by folks who wanted to meet him all he had to do was put a hand on one of my shoulders as we stood there and I felt like a million bucks.  I wanted to say, “Hey, I’m Rex’s driver.”  Terry Rush is another one.  For me, to be seen with Terry at the Tulsa Workshop is the same thing as being famous myself.  I always imagined people asking, “Who is that guy Terry is talking to?”  I wanted to say, “Terry Rush knows me.  Terry Rush is my friend.”

As much as I love those guys I’d drop them in a heartbeat to be seen in the presence of Paul.  He wasn’t just church of Christ famous- he was world famous.    I’m sure his companions derived some sort of pleasure just by being seen with him.  They must have been so proud of him – so amazed by what he did – so thrilled to share in his ministry.  Can you imagine the “behind the scenes” stories they shared with family and friends?  Can you imagine how proud of him they must have felt?  When Paul said something funny so that the crowd was roaring with laughter their faces must have beamed with delight.  No matter how many times they heard the story.  When Paul’s oratorical gift and his passion for Jesus were in full flight I bet their hearts raced with awe – and wonder – and pride.  The things they heard and the things they saw literally changed the world.  And they were a part of it- no matter how small.

That is why the little told story of this particular companion thunders over my sense of unfairness – or self-pity – or my whining about the hard stuff in my life.  When I’m hosting my own grand pity party I need to remember this man.

The story is probably little told because little is known.  We do know his name.  His name was Trophimus.  You can read his story for yourself in II Timothy 4:20.  You won’t find much though.  In fact, about all it says is, “But Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.”  That’s it.  However, those seven words do much to poop my pity party- to bash my sense of unfairness. 

“I left” – How did Trophimus feel about that?  What were his thoughts when Paul’s back filled the doorway and he was gone?  How empty did the room feel?  Did he cry?  Did he take it personally?  Did he think his illness was just an excuse for getting rid of him?  Did he feel betrayed?  Was he mad at God?  Did he begin to believe that Paul’s ministry was all hype?  Did he have to belittle Paul in his mind to make himself feel better?

“Left sick at Miletus” – You’ve got to be kidding me.  The great and famous Apostle Paul left a man because he was sick?  That is absolutely stunning to me.  Why didn’t he heal his friend?  Poor guy!  How many miracles do you suppose Trophimus witnessed?  Beyond number is my guess.  And now- when he needed a miracle himself- he was being abandoned because he was sick.  It doesn’t require much imagination to see fertile soil for the seeds of bitterness.  Does it?

Or, even worse, it’s easy to see Trophimus believing that being left and not being healed was indicative of a massive spiritual failure on his part.  “My life is this way because I did or thought something for which I am being punished.”  “Paul/God is not healing me because I am not worthy of such healing.”  “Paul/God was not able to heal me because I don’t have the faith for such a thing.”  “This is exactly what I deserve.”

Somehow, though, I don’t think any of this was true.  In fact, those seven words instruct me.  For one they humanize Paul.  I have no doubt Paul would have healed his friend if he could have done so.  So it teaches me someting about the true purpose of miracles in the age of miracles.  They weren’t dispensed as personal favors.  They weren’t earned as a result of sterling faith.  Being left with a thorn in the flesh or a bodily illness wasn’t to be interpreted as a lack of faith.  To be healed was not a sign of God’s favor or the person’s faith.  I’m comforted to know that.  Paul and Trophimus had to deal with a situation as mere mortals.  Like I do.  They had to find God in the pain of separation and illness.  Like I do.  They had to guard against taking the issue personally – towards one another – towards God.  Like I do.

Trophimus was sick.  Trophimus could not travel.  God was not going to heal Trophimus.  Trophimus had to work through that without abandoning his faith and surrendering to bitterness or anger.  Trophimus and Paul were not exempt from the trials and frustrations and heartaches of life simply because they were servants of God.  If Trophimus cried on the day he was left I have no doubt Paul cried too.  However, their tears would have mingled with those of Jesus who surely would have cried also.  To have the powers He does, to be able to grant His people ANYTHING they ask for must tear at His heart.  Especially as He surrenders them to their pain so that they can grow in the ways that that particular pain will make a person grow in the particular way they need to grow.  In order to be like Jesus.

When we’re all dead – in heaven – I’m sure the lines to meet the great heroes of faith will be long.  Who doesn’t want to meet David – Abraham – Moses – Samuel – Peter – Paul?  To name a few.  I hate waiting in lines.  Instead, I’m going to hunt for Trophimus.  I really want to meet him.  To know his story.  See, I really have more in common with him than I do with so many of the others.  I too have felt “left.”  I too have been too “sick” to travel on great journeys of faith.  I too have stared out the window and wondered when I would be well enough, physically or spiritually,  to join the fray.  Trophimus’ example teaches me I am in the fray – now.  That my journey is just as pleasing as Paul’s was.  That God is using the particular struggles I may have in the now to demonstrate some great truth.  Either for myself, or others.  Probably both.  It’s a truth which holds as much power – and grace – and redemption – as blind eyes opened, dead bodies raised and crooked limbs straightened. 

My journey is my own – and God with me.  It’s not Paul’s jorney.  Or Lazarus’.  Or Legion’s.  Or the widow’s son.  It is a journey plotted by the Holy Spirit.  It is a journey on which every aspect of my life, especially the hard stuff, is an integral part of my emergency gear.  Even when I feel as if I am flat on my back, too sick to travel, it is a journey on which the precious Spirit of Jesus carries me to unknown places.  Places I need to be.  Places I will never reach if My life is lived as a negative reaction to whatever sickness I may be experiencing on any given day.  This is a place where Trophimus has been.  I don’t think it’s a place where those who were spared the pain of their malady through a dramatic miraculous intervention have ever been.  That’s okay, they had their journey.  God used miracles in their lives to make a point for the greater good of everybody.  Meanwhile, those of us who feel “left” have something just as important to say.  Our journey can help others know Jesus too.

“But Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.”

Isn’t that amazing?