Nicodemus was puzzled by something Jesus said to him. There are many things in the Bible that puzzle me; I’m in good company. Things that I just don’t understand because I don’t have the background in the ancient cultures or language, passages that seem too convoluted and things that just don’t seem to fit. This seems to be a deal breaker for some people as far as faith goes, but I’m comfortable with ambiguity.
For example, the story in Numbers 20 and 21 about the Brass Serpent taking place while the Israelites were still walking in circles in the wilderness.
Why is it there? It seems random, unrelated to any other practices of the age.
The Jews were discouraged. Understandable: they had just lost their religious leader, the High Priest Aaron. They had come under attack by Arad the Canaanite, who had captured some of their people. A military defeat, and a hostage situation. Plus, they were taking the long way around Edom, and their feet hurt.
So, they complained. God punished their whining with “fiery serpents”. That’s not hard to understand, either, and it’s also entirely understandable that they pleaded for relief.
What is mystifying is what God did about it. This Serpent thing. God told Moses to make what is essentially an idol. What about Commandment the First?
This account puzzled me as a boy: I had noticed the contradiction back then. I thought and thought about it, but it still seemed to me to be a really bad idea: it was too easy for someone to get this wrong, to start worshipping the snake.
But recently I’ve come more to terms with it.
1. It was used only once, as far as I know: it probably got packed away in Moses’ luggage, and after he died, it went into the Moses Memorial Library. Actually, good king Josiah is credited with destroying it for exactly this reason.
2. My two cents: God did this one awful thing, a unique event, that one time as a symbol of what he would do for real; an awful, awful thing that he would do one time only, far, far in the future. I’m pretty confident I’m right, because in John 3:14, Jesus tells Nicodemus:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
The Jews didn’t have to sacrifice an animal, splash blood on a doorway, or pay money to be saved from an agonizing, lingering death. They just had to look. Centuries later, the prophet Zechariah said:
Zec 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
We perform *this* ritual, this communion, each Lord’s Day, as often as we do it, in remembrance of Him, who was lifted up on a pole, that we may look at him, and believe and not perish.
I have no need to eulogize my father. Everyone here knows a little bit about him, and I know that you all remember him as a gentle man, a faithful man, a patient man. A man who loved, who held to a standard of truth, but without being haughty or arrogant.
I do, though, want to talk a little about what I learned from him in the last days of his life. I want to mark his life, and his passing, before we rush on in our frantic schedules.
Death, among other things, reminds us that we are not permanent.
We want to hold on to things. We want to hold on to our youth, to memories of our childhood, to our illusions about ourselves, about the world around us.
We wanted to hold on to Dad: we didn't want him to go. Now, it's really my turn to hold the baton out to my kids: there's no one else to do it!
But he needed to move on. His physical condition was deteriorating, we would say that his mental state was deteriorating. But his spiritual state was excellent, and even in his last days, the obvious love that he and mom shared warmed everyone who saw it. He inspired his children and grandchildren to follow in his footsteps, even when those footsteps faltered. Isn't that what we would like to say of our lives?
I'd like to share just a few verses from the Bible. This first verse is after Christ's resurrection.
17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”
Please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying dad was Jesus, and this is a very deep verse, but I'm applying it to our situation: dad had somewhere to go, and it was important, and it wasn't fair for us to keep him from it.
Earlier Jesus had said:
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
We all know dad was a builder, a remodeler... Since Christ hasn't come back yet, I'm assuming that dad has found a room or two to spackle, just to help out.
There are two last verses I'd like to look at, and I think they give us a glimpse of two sides of what dad is now.
I John 3:2
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
1 Corinthians 13:12
12 For now we see in a mirror, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I also am known.
The first is what we will be in that future state. Our best ideas can never approach the future reality. But this verse says that dad will be able to see Him as He is-in all His glory- enabled by the heavenly change that dad has undergone.
The other half is what we shall know. We try to imagine heaven, but it is distorted by our earthly limitations and lack of proper measuring sticks. Paul promises us that this limitation, and even the ravages of age and dementia will be wiped away. God knows us thoroughly: we will be able to know Him thoroughly as well.
My father left this life early on a Saturday morning for his new home in Heaven. I want to thank everyone for their support and prayers for Joan and the family.
Born Sverre Richard Kolseth, October 9, 1929, Richard went to be with the Lord on Saturday morning, April 25, 2015.
A memorial celebration was held Thursday, April 30, at 4pm for local family and friends at Beaver Creek Christian Church in West Jefferson, NC.
A graveside service will be held at Memory Gardens in Albany, NY, May 30 at noon for family and friends.
The address is 983 Watervliet Shaker Rd, Albany, NY 12205; a google maps link is below.
In leu of flowers, gifts may be sent to Thru the Bible Radio Network, PO Box 7100, Pasadena CA 91109. Website: ttb.org
He slipped out quietly, early on a Saturday morning, so as not to disturb anyone. His youngest daughter heard him go, but the rest of the crew had said their goodbyes already. They would have liked to stay and wait him out, but life happens, the body, schedules, time and space make their demands.
Dad was a quiet guy. Never said much, and this quiet was enforced in the latter years by an increasingly uncooperative nervous system. But near the end his wife, his two daughters and I were by his side, and when he rallied and was able to look around from time to time, he saw us and smiled.
I know it was difficult for him to leave; he and Mom were inseparable. These last four years they were known as the "walkers" as they strolled arm in arm along our road, up to the stop sign and back, and then for shorter and shorter distances as his strength diminished. Neighbors would slow and stop on one of the few straight bits of road in the county to say hello.
Their closeness and obvious love for one another were an inspiration to their children and grandchildren. Their story will be told to the great-grands, and he will be missed. We've not lost Richard, he's just gone on ahead, scouting the territory for the rest of us.
Haven't tried this myself, but it sounds interesting enough to keep...
1 bag 26 oz. frozen hash browns
12 eggs 1 cup milk
1 tablespoon ground mustard
1 16 oz. roll sausage maple, sage or regular sausage. Salt and pepper
16 oz. bag shredded cheddar cheese Directions:
1. Spray crock pot and evenly spread hash browns at the bottom.
2. Crack 12 eggs in a large bowl.
3. Mix well (and slowly) using a whisk.
4. Add the milk.
5. Go ahead and sprinkle in the ground mustard.
6. Add plenty of salt.... ...and lots of fresh pepper. Mix well and set aside.
7. Cook the sausage on high heat, drain and set aside.
8. Add sausage on top of hash browns.
9. Is this enough cheese? Maybe? Probably. Throw the whole big bag in there.
10. Mix it up well. Or good, depending on where you're from.
11. Pour the egg mixture over everything in the crock pot. Using a wood spoon, even everything out so it's spread evenly.
12. Turn the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.
Some fun variations of this recipe. Before cooking (during prep) you can add: chunks of sourdough bread diced chiles salsa diced green onions
Now, it happens that we meet together once every year, sometime about the 4th of July, for some reason or other. These 4th of July gatherings I suppose have their uses. If you will indulge me, I will state what I suppose to be some of them.
We are now a mighty nation, we are thirty—or about thirty millions of people, and we own and inhabit about one-fifteenth part of the dry land of the whole earth. We run our memory back over the pages of history for about eighty-two years and we discover that we were then a very small people in point of numbers, vastly inferior to what we are now, with a vastly less extent of country,—with vastly less of everything we deem desirable among men,—we look upon the change as exceedingly advantageous to us and to our posterity, and we fix upon something that happened away back, as in some way or other being connected with this rise of prosperity. We find a race of men living in that day whom we claim as our fathers and grandfathers; they were iron men, they fought for the principle that they were contending for; and we understood that by what they then did it has followed that the degree of prosperity that we now enjoy has come to us. We hold this annual celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time of how it was done and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it; and we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves—we feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the age, and race, and country in which we live for these celebrations. But after we have done all this we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it. We have besides these men—descended by blood from our ancestors—among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe—German, Irish, French and Scandinavian—men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration [loud and long continued applause], and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world. [Applause.]
Now, sirs, for the purpose of squaring things with this idea of “don’t care if slavery is voted up or voted down” [Douglas's "popular sovereignty" position on the extension of slavery to the territories], for sustaining the Dred Scott decision [A voice---"Hit him again"], for holding that the Declaration of Independence did not mean anything at all, we have Judge Douglas giving his exposition of what the Declaration of Independence means, and we have him saying that the people of America are equal to the people of England. According to his construction, you Germans are not connected with it. Now I ask you in all soberness, if all these things, if indulged in, if ratified, if confirmed and endorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated to them, do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the country, and to transform this Government into a government of some other form. Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow. What are these arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden. That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it. Turn in whatever way you will—whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent, and I hold if that course of argumentation that is made for the purpose of convincing the public mind that we should not care about this, should be granted, it does not stop with the negro. I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it where will it stop. If one man says it does not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man? If that declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute book, in which we find it and tear it out! Who is so bold as to do it! [Voices---"me" "no one," &c.] If it is not true let us tear it out! [cries of "no, no,"] let us stick to it then [cheers], let us stand firmly by it then. [Applause.]
3 sheets of heavy-duty foil
10-12 baby red potatoes, thinly sliced
6 slices of cooked and crumbled bacon
1 packet ranch dressing mix
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter
Sour cream for serving, if desired
1. Spray each sheet of foil with cooking spray. Top each piece with equal portions of potatoes, bacon, and ranch dressing mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to each serving. Wrap securely.
2. Grill for 20 to 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve in foil, topped with sour cream if desired.