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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

WHAT’S TRUE & WHAT’S NOT - Sermon

John 21:1-19    WHAT’S TRUE & WHAT’S NOT & DOES JESUS’ RESURRECTION MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

Ray is a corn farmer. He and his wife Annie and small daughter Karin live on farm in Iowa. Ray is a good husband and dad perhaps because he made up his mind to be different from his own father John who was seldom around when Ray was a boy. Their relationship was always troubled and then John died. 
Year later Ray began to hear a voice telling him to build a baseball diamond and an outfield on his farmland. The voice told him, "If you build it he will come." Ray doesn’t understand the persistent message and unable to ignore it he believes it and he persuades Annie let him build a baseball field with spectator seats. One evening some uniformed players begin to emerge from out of the cornfield and they begin to play ball. They appear so happy to play. The game ends as the sun sets and the players withdraw into the corn. Neighbours hear about it and at first think Ray has lost his mind. A game happens night after night as these ghostly players come from the corn and the neighbours show up to watch one night, and return each following night. 
If you haven’t recognized it, Ray is the protagonist in a novel called ‘Shoeless Joe’ written by Canadian author W.P. Kinsella, a novel that was turned into the movie called ‘Field of Dreams.’ In this fantasy drama Ray doesn’t know that the voice belongs to Joe Jackson, nicknamed “Shoeless Joe,” who was an outfielder with the 1919 Chicago White Sox. That team became known as the Black Sox because of a dreadful scandal, when seven players all dead and gone now, were disgraced and banned from baseball because they accepted bribe money for intentionally losing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. 
Near the end of the story as the players return into the corn stalks, only the catcher remains on the field. He removes his mask and a handsome face appears that Ray recognizes as his father John when he was a young aspiring ball player. Ray says to Annie, "It's my father... I-I only saw him years later when he was worn down by life. Look at him. He's got his whole life in front of him, and I'm not even a glint in his eye. What do I say to him?" Ray introduces John to Annie and Karin and choking with emotion Ray asks, "Hey Dad? Do you want to have a catch?" The two enjoy a game of catch between father and son one more time as the sun sets. Then dad waves goodbye and moves into the corn stalks. 
Kinsella story is an inspired piece of literature about the themes of faith and redemption. He writes fiction. He deals in make believeand it’s entertaining and we are okay with that because we understand the genre. 
However, those themes of Faith and redemptionare customary themes in church too. Here in this place we are uninterested in fiction. We want and we expect truth in our conversations and in our teaching. We certainly want the truth about faith and redemption.  

Sunday, July 7, 2019

TEMPTATION READINESS ... Audio file of my sermon Luke 4:1-13


I delivered this message at White Rock Community Church. Pastor Steve Doerksen was preaching through Luke’s gospel, and on Feb 10thneeded someone to step in for him, giving me liberty to choose my own section of scripture and subject or to continue in Luke. I chose to continue his run through Luke. Luke 4 was my text and that is the story of Jesus being tempted by the devil at the outset of Christ’s earthly ministry. In his successful rejection of this enticement, Jesus has taught us how to be ready for temptation so that we also can effectively recognize it and refuse it. Our objective is to say “No.”   

The Temptation of Jesus
1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 
3 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." 
4 And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone.'" 
5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 
7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." 
8 And Jesus answered him, "It is written, "'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'" 
9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,  "'He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,' 11 and  "'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'"
12 And Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" 
13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

If you take time to listen, I thank you. I trust that God’s Word that spoke to me, has also spoken to you. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Gina’s Biggest Commercial Opp

My daughter in-law Gina’s big commercial shot in South Africa was an experience of a lifetime for her. She did great and looks splendid. It’s called ‘Vacation.’

Here is the Video
https://www.ispot.tv/ad/oIlH/myrbetriq-vacation?fbclid=IwAR2OC8EUEuaDb9_4wwaZA2Y0SJToTw9VuGXwj9lN1XfWsqVXPyczP4tilr0

Myrbetriq TV Spot, 'Vacation' - Thumbnail 1

Myrbetriq TV Spot, 'Vacation' - Thumbnail 8

STREET PERSONS

Sat with him in his bus shelter, his fixed address
for several months and one day asked him
did he care for fruit, as in I’d buy it for him,
“Selectively,” was his answer. 
“How long living like this,” I asked and he,
“eighteen years, chose it to be free.” 
Of people, duty, cares, I guessed.
Shopping cart swollen with all he’d need
for warmth and inclement weather.
An A&W supper, cart outside, waiting for night,
his bus shelter bench for a bed. He’s gone.
Empty shelter one day.
I lost him.

Many more like him, on concrete islands
where posted signs say panhandling’s illegal.
Handwritten cardboard invitations to give,
and sometimes I do, selectively.
His bike in the bush, he walks bent at the waist,
I’ve watched. he is clearly disabled, crippled,
walking or riding with effort, and I give to him.
Another with prosthetic leg needs help.
Another is suspect with new backpack and shoes, 
and cell phone in hand and smokes. 
Only a few gals in this collection of homeless,
all are not vagrant, or tramps or bums,
but alone, unaided, displaced, poor and needy. 

© Ron Unruh, June 2019

Comment: The narrative free verse says it all except for my conviction that our elected officers and public funded agencies are failing a segment of society that yes, may be addicted to substances and yes, may not be employable, but who are still persons as my title states, and are deserving of a societal compassion and serious help, that does not insult them but rather respects them by provisions of shelter and clothing and foods. Instead my observation has been that these people living in tents or under tarps or cardboard get regularly rousted by police and city bylaw enforcers. We spend huge amounts of public money on superfluous things when we could make miserable existences somewhat more bearable.

Monday, June 10, 2019

UNNATURAL FOR ME

Surf spilling forward in sequential waves
And softly pitching thinning to the shore
I, nearby musing on my waning life 
Each wave reminds me of a fleeting year.
One wave, one year, transient and then gone
Yet the sea does not run out of waves.
I’d gladly give up my remaining years
To certify my family would own joy.

Cloudless type of day when an eagle flies,
Lifts off the tallest tree to drift on air,
I dream I leave the highest point of life
When nothing’s left for me up there but glide
On currents warm and welcoming to me
Supremely high away from people’s pain
Gone from their cherished lives that gave delight
I can’t bear what I can no longer change.

© Ron Unruh, June 2019-06-10

Sunday, June 9, 2019

SIMON PETER - YOU’LL NEVER CHANGE

Friends and readers, in this post I have placed the fourth chapter of my book entitled ‘The Eleven,’ subtitled ‘My Conversations with the Apostles,’ as a gift. Chapter 4 is titled, ‘God Sees Potential in You.’ subtitled, 'Simon, The Soft Rock’

Thinking about Simon Peter today, I have composed a poem ‘Simon Peter - You’ll Never Change,’ to typify the distinction to be made between self-effort at self-change and the divine transformation of a person when change seems hopeless. Here then is the poem followed by the book excerpt.

SIMON PETER - YOU’LL NEVER CHANGE

Simon, cursed in anger and always seemed to be annoyed
with recurring irritations of his blue-collar profession,
and with the sad work ethic of the men whom he employed.
Jesus listening to Simon formed his own impression.
But imagine Jesus telling Peter, “You will never change;
I would invite you to join me but there is no hope.”
That comment to their friendship would effectively estrange
and transport Simon Peter’s life to a slippery slope.   

Now imagine Jesus met you at some time in your own past,
when failure, guilt and selfishness left you unfulfilled,
and you were in no position to go with him if he asked.
With your ethics and your choices he was far from thrilled. 
Imagine that he said to you, “You will never change;
I wanted you to serve with me to administer my love.
My plan was a rich rewarding life for you in exchange.
Instead I’ll lead you to the edge and give you a sharp shove.”

But that’s not what happened to Simon in spite of his behaviour
nor is that what happened to you, imperfect as you were then.
Instead, on that day Simon was greeted by the Saviour
who said, “Follow me and I will change you into a fisher of men.”
Peter’s hope would not depend on him changing himself.
Christ’s power would be the factor to make Simon new.
Christ has embraced you and changed everything about yourself.
You now can tell everyone he’ll change them through and through.

© Ron Unruh, June 2019

The Book
As you come now to Chapter 4 of the book, ’The Eleven,’ I’d like you to appreciate the format of each chapter, which begins with a fictional narrative, and follows with a nurturing application. I trust that you will find it to be an encouragement to you about yourself and about those whom you love.

4
GOD SEES POTENTIAL IN YOU
SIMON PETER: THE SOFT ROCK
WITH DIGITAL RECORDER and spiral notepad in hand, I found myself standing on a road in front of some adobe houses. People peered at me from doorways, stared at me through cracks in shuttered windows. I smiled and nodded awkwardly trying to diffuse their suspicions. I did not look like I belonged there. I turned around to get a better fix on my position. From where I stood I could look up and down a long stretch of beach. A storm had been through there during the night. Everything was still wet. The sand was dark with water. Waves rolled loudly on shore. Clouds screened the sun but the sky was clearing. As the clouds began to break up and blow off, there was a damp chill in the air. I shivered, wearing a cotton Polo shirt and slacks and a pair of deck shoes without socks. 
He came then, striding toward me, whistling. Hearing the tune moved me. It hadn't occurred to me that Simon Peter might appreciate music. For a moment as I watched him, I thought that even with the help of scripture, I knew little about this celebrated man, Peter, whistling. From a distance of a hundred yards he shouted at me. A cheerful, friendly voice.
"Are you Ron?"
"Yes sir," I yelled back. I was enthralled. I made no effort to move toward him.
His arms spread wide to me, he closed the distance with huge steps until he was there in front of me. At once he crushed me with a bear hug that winded me. Embarrassed, I thought, "If this display doesn't win the townsfolk and convince them I'm okay, nothing can."
A rapid glance at me from head to foot, and he broke out a big, slow smile and exclaimed, "Who dressed you?" And he laughed.
I hate it when I feel like I've lost control of an interview as soon as it has begun, so I laughed with him but determined not to answer the question.
"I'm so pleased to meet you Peter." And he was still chuckling. Frankly, I was dazed. Peter was huge, thick and powerful. His full beard gave him an intimidating appearance. Yet he seemed cuddly. 
Peter clapped one arm around my shoulders, the force of which moved me forward, and he said, "Let's walk down the road so we can talk." So we went.
"Sure," I responded. "Let's talk. That's why I'm here," I stammered. "I can hardly believe I'm doing this with you Peter. I want to learn so many things from you." I pressed the record button on my hand-held recorder and clipped it on my belt.
His arm stayed around me for a few steps when he said through his beard, "You're cold aren't you?" He grunted, "The sun will warm you soon." He withdrew his arm. We walked, this renowned figure from the past and me. Awestruck, I prepared to put my first question to him. I had drafted my questions to be direct and assertive. I was ready for what I thought would be resistance.
"Peter," I began, "artists have depicted you and your colleagues as robed saints with halos. But you were hardly angelic were you?"
Not expecting this, he appeared startled but then smiled playfully. "No, we weren't angels. When Jesus met us we were fishermen. We reeked of fish," he giggled as we strolled. 
"As a matter of fact Peter, didn't you gentlemen frustrate and disappoint Jesus on numerous occasions?" His incredulous stare let me know I had him, so I carried on.
"I recall reading about your fear of drowning during a storm, and your outrage over the expensive perfume that Mary poured on Jesus' feet. Then there was your attempt to prevent Jewish mothers from presenting their babies to Jesus to receive a blessing from him." 
His mouth had fallen open and he stared at me. 
"I could go on," I said. "Tell me Peter, why did Jesus pick you fellows at all?"
Peter stopped still, looked long at me, then shifted his big frame uncomfortably from foot to foot, his eyes scanning the horizon. He stared directly into my eyes as he replied, fully in control. "You sure do talk a lot don't you son." Again that smile.
He grew serious, moved some sand with his foot. "I'm sure we often disappointed Jesus. We weren't talented or spiritually minded but Jesus knew that, and I believe he saw potential in us, even in me." Peter paused for a moment or two. "He was ready for some of our mistakes." 
Peter looked at the ground, sadly, and I felt uncomfortable. I had just met him and now I sensed that I had overstated my case. I hadn't read him very well. Peter was softer than I had imagined.
But he resumed, "I believed that the only thing I and some of my friends did well was fishing. But Jesus looked at us differently. He spent time with us and corrected our weaknesses and trained us to be what he called, fishers of men."
"True enough!" I acknowledged. 
"Could you tell me, Peter," I coaxed, "about that occasion when Jesus told you fishermen that you would one day catch men? James and John were with you weren't they?"
"That's right," Peter answered. "We were fishing partners and friends. We had spent the night net-fishing in the shallows. We caught nothing. In the morning we came to shore, dragged our boats out of the water and we were tired." Peter pulled a hard right and headed for the water. I hurried to keep up. 
With cool wind coming straight off the sea, I was wishing Peter had turned into a nearby house instead. I was quivering. In step with him again I asked, "What time in the morning was that Peter?"
He shook his head. "I don't remember but it was early. I know that we had not eaten anything. We were cleaning and mending our nets before we would go home to eat and crawl into bed."
"And then you saw Jesus?" I pressed him.
"Not exactly. We saw a lot of people. It was unusual to see a large crowd of people on the shore so early in the morning. Then we noticed that they were gathered to listen to Jesus, whom as yet, we didn't know. But we had heard about him."
Peter and I were now at the water's edge where the waves were slapping boat hulls, a steady, peaceful rhythm. It was mid morning and fishermen had gone home a couple of hours earlier. We were alone on the beach and he beckoned me to follow him into one of the boats. We crawled in and sat there on the damp wood. I was getting colder by the minute. I scrawled some notes about these surroundings, the colours, smells and sounds.
"How many people do you estimate were there, Peter," I queried, wondering how popular Jesus was at that early stage in his public life.
Peter looked up the stretch of sand, trying to envision that faraway image but he gave up. "I can't give you a number," he said. "So many people pressed against Jesus that he finally came over to us, stepped into my boat and told me to push out from shore. I did what he told me to do, pushed the boat out, crawled back in and waited. From there Jesus began to teach the crowd." 
I chattered through my teeth. "You must have been surprised." 
Peter shrugged. "Sure I was surprised and I was tired. I wanted to go home to sleep but I stayed to listen." 
I was shivering now. "Did Jesus impress you, Peter." 
Peter put one leg up on the seat in front of him. With one hand he tussled his hair. "Let me put it this way. When Jesus finished talking, he turned to me and said, 'let's do some fishing.' I couldn't believe him. 'Take the boat into deep water and drop your nets,' he said to me."
Peter's eyes were wide. He carried on with his account. "He caught me off guard. I argued that it would be useless to go out then, but I felt obliged to do what he said. Ron, it was as though I couldn't help myself."  As I listened to him recount this memorable story, Peter seemed still to be filled with wonder.
I quivered, "Why did you think it would be futile to go fishing?"
His response was immediate. His voice was firm. "Ron, you have to understand. I fished all my life in these waters. I know where fish are at any time of day and in any type of weather. I know that fish seek colder waters at mid-day. They swim to deep waters. Our nets were suitable for shallow waters only."
"So that's what made your results so remarkable!"
"Precisely!" his big voice detonated. "You can imagine my astonishment when the nets filled with fish. It was abnormal. We had spent all night fishing and had caught nothing. As we pulled the fish in, we almost overturned." Peter's face was flushed. He was animated as he described the scene. "I realized at that moment that there was something supernatural about Jesus and I sensed for the first time how sinful I really was."
"You felt sinful?" I interjected curiously.
"Yes, I did. Being in the presence of Jesus suddenly made me feel unworthy and afraid. We were all afraid. That's when he calmed us down and told us we would catch men. But I confess I didn't know what he meant."
This fascinated me. "That's a wonderful story Peter. No wonder you decided to follow him." 
We sat facing one another, quietly, comfortably, as I considered what I wanted to say. "Peter, our accounts tell us that Jesus made you disciples, the foundation of the church, which is now a global church."
"That is very satisfying," he whispered. "Yep, very satisfying indeed."  
Peter became pensive now and without a word to me, he was up and out of the boat and heading down the beach again. I scrambled over the side of the boat, missing the shore and planting my right deck shoe into the water. I ran after him, caught up, and I kept up. As I hurried to follow him, our shadows were dark on the sand and I noticed that the sun was bright and for the first time that morning I was warm.
Panting as I spoke, "Don't you think, Peter, that your success as disciples, demonstrates that God will use average people when they are humble and teachable?"
Peter didn't hesitate. "I'm glad you asked that question. If God could use us, he can use others like us, even you," he declared with a howl of laughter. Then he smacked me on the back with that big right hand.  
I was eager to ask him about other events. I felt some urgency. I wasn't sure how much time I had left. 
I began, "There was another situation that I would like you to talk about if you don't mind, Peter. What about your brief walk on the water?"
"Well, I'm still ashamed when I think about it," Peter answered. "Please remember that my understanding of Jesus was limited. My trust was slowly growing." 
Peter paused thoughtfully, then talked on. "Jesus had sent us by boat across Lake Genessaret while he prayed in some mountain location. Wouldn't you know it, the wind picked up and the waves pitched us around. Our nerves were on edge. In the commotion we saw Jesus walking on the water. I mean to tell you it was spooky. One look and we started screaming like frightened children. We thought he was a watery ghost." 
"Did you really think it was a ghost?" I asked.
"Sure we did. I had never seen a ghost but I imagined that one would look exactly the way he looked walking across the water to us."
"Then what happened, Peter?" I asked impatiently.
Now Peter's voice was trembling. "Well, then Jesus called to us. He comforted us. It was his familiar voice alright. I was amazed. I never claimed I wasn't impulsive and at that moment I wanted more than anything to walk on water too. I called to the figure and asked Jesus to prove himself to us by giving me power to do it. He did! Ron, He did!" Peter was out of breath. So enthusiastic about his story.
And I asked, "And then what happened?" He was into it before I finished my sentence.
"I was fine for the first few steps when fear suddenly froze me. I started to sink. I was terrified. And Jesus reached out, took my hand and said, 'Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?' I had no answer but I want you to know that once I was safely back in the boat, every one of us worshipped him and confessed that he was the Son of God."
As I listened, it sounded so reassuring to me to hear Peter tell these stories first-hand. I was stirred by Peter's honesty.
"To hear you tell the story Peter, sends chills down my spine," I said. "You bring Jesus so near to me."
I had come prepared to investigate this next area but now I wasn't sure how to approach it with Peter. But I pressed ahead. "No doubt the saddest episode of your life was your denial of Jesus. Will you talk about that Peter?"
I hadn't realized it would still give him as much pain as it did. Peter looked at the ground for some time, closed his eyes. When he began to speak, his voice shook with emotion. I was startled.
He turned away from me. "I, uh, find this difficult," he choked.
"You don't have to talk about it Peter," I assured him. "I have no desire to hurt you."
His large hands covered his eyes as he relived his heartache. A grief he had not needed to review for so long now occupied his thoughts. When at last he lifted his face he said, "We had accompanied Jesus to Gethsemane, James and John and me. Jesus urged us to pray while he was doing the same thing in a private spot farther away. But we were sleepy. When Jesus returned, he found us napping. He chided us and told us that praying was necessary to prevent us from falling into temptation." 
Now Peter choked back an audible sob and swallowed hard. He struggled on, "but I didn't know what Jesus meant. When he left, we fell asleep again," Peter said in angry frustration. "This happened three times." Peter's anguish was obvious.
Unexpectedly Peter shouted, his mind reviewing something horrible. "Have you ever tried to pray through the night?" He didn't wait for my answer. 
There was no way to interrupt Peter now. "I couldn't do it," he bellowed. 
"Suddenly the raucous crowd overwhelmed us and took Jesus into custody. I tried to protect him the only way I could." Peter violently slashed the air with his arm. "I drew my sword and swung at the closest man. It's a wonder I didn't kill him." 
Peter kicked sand hard with his sandaled right foot. "I couldn't do anything right, even when I tried," he said. "As it was, I separated a chap from one of his ears. Jesus scolded me and picked up the severed ear and healed that fellow." 
Now Peter's speech wound down and he laboured as he said, "and still they took him away. He re-attached that man's ear and still Jesus let them take him."
I could sense how upset Peter was and I was sorry it was becoming an ordeal for him. He didn't deserve that. Yet I had not yet covered my whole story. Speaking more slowly, seriously, I put this query to him. 
"And after Jesus was taken to Caiaphas for questioning, you waited in the high priest's courtyard, didn't you Peter? And there, when one of the female employees spotted you and accused you of belonging to Jesus' group, you fell apart.
Visibly disturbed by this line of questioning, Peter nevertheless, answered. "That's accurate. I was overtaken by fear, and because I was in no condition to resist the temptation I denied knowing what she was talking about."
"What do you mean when you say you were in no condition to resist?" I inquired.
"I mean I wasn't strong enough. I had not prayed like Jesus told us we should when we were in the garden with him." Tears pooled in his eyes and dropped into his beard. He closed his fingers and thumb over the bridge of his nose and squeezed the tears away, wiping the moisture on his robe in a slow, sad gesture. He hadn't felt tears on his face for centuries.
"But that wasn't the end of it, was it, Peter?" I said. "Another servant girl approached you and noisily identified you as one of Jesus' followers."
"Yes," he said. "And I quickly denied that too. But they wouldn't leave me alone." For a moment Peter couldn't go on. This imposing man gained his composure and spoke. "Can you imagine how afraid I was when a large group of people walked over to me and said that my accent betrayed me? With cursing I tried to convince them I didn't know Jesus." Peter dropped his head in dismay.
"How did you feel when you did this Peter?" I questioned.
"I felt nothing at the time," he said. "It happened so quickly. It was a matter of self-preservation. But then a rooster crowed." 
Peter took a deep breath, swallowed hard and continued. "It seemed that my world fell in. Jesus knew what a weak person I was. He told me I would deny him before morning dawned and I didn't believe him. And then the rooster crowed. And I had already done it. I denied him ... three times I denied him. My Saviour. Oh my guilt! It was the lowest point of my life," he groaned.
There was a pause before I ventured this next thought. "Yes, but then came that glorious morning when you and John ran to the garden tomb," I pointed out. "Tell me about that?"
Peter's face brightened immediately. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Now he was smiling so broadly he could hardly form his words. 
"Some of the women came to tell us that the tomb was empty and Christ's body was gone. They said that angels told them Jesus had risen from the dead. We were a frightened group already and this story seemed unlikely. However, John and I ran to examine it."
"You outran John, didn't you Peter," I said. 
"Yep, but when I rushed inside the tomb and saw the folded grave clothes, it meant nothing to me. John followed me in, and looked around. Suddenly John let out a roar. Somehow he understood that our master was no longer dead. He had really conquered death. Praise the name of Jesus."
As I listened to Peter's joy return, only minutes remained before my meeting with him would end. I sensed that.
"It's a powerful memory, Peter. You have been very kind to me. I would love to speak to you longer but I don't have any more time, you understand?" I said. 
He said he did.
"This has been a such a treat for me," I told him. "I'm sorry some questions upset you so much. But thanks for everything that you shared so honestly."
I was being pulled away now. I hastened to say, "and I thank you for all you have done Peter. You learned so much through those hard times. The entire church is in your debt for your contribution to our faith."
"Thank you Ron," Peter said. "Jesus once said that not even the open gates of hell could succeed in opposing his church. I'm delighted that this is being fulfilled."
As he was speaking, I was losing contact with him. In an instant I was sitting at the desk in my den, a cup of cold coffee on the table beside me. The cassette recorder sat on top of my notepad. Neither bore a suggestion of my excursion.
GOD SEES POTENTIAL IN YOU
GOD ISN'T INTERESTED IN STAINED-GLASS SAINTS. God sees potential in ordinary people and He taps it. He did this with Simon Peter. The twelve apostles were real people like us, average in every way. Youthful men in their twenties, most of them married, they were quite limited in their life experiences. From lower and middle class backgrounds, they were employed in common occupations. Yet Jesus, nevertheless, chose them to be involved in something super-natural! Why? He chose men who were humble enough to be teachable!Not remarkably gifted or even spiritually informed but Christ saw in them potential for significance. He transformed their shortcomings and deficiencies into strengths that made them the foundation of the church. Through his patient training, they grew in grace and wisdom until he left them on their own. Such life transformation is what God intends to do with each of us.
GOD TAPS THE POTENTIAL HE SEES IN US
William and Gloria Gaither caught the spirit of this truth with the lyrics of an effervescent chorus called "I am a Promise." "I am a promise. I am a possibility. I am a promise with a capital "P". I am great big bundle of potentiality. And I am learnin - to hear God's voice and I am tryin to make the right choices. I'm a promise to be, anything God wants me to be." The song is frequently associated with children but its truth is wider. As disciples of Christ ourselves, our characters can be advanced regardless of our age. The apostles are proof that the Master can change adults. It may be that a person is a worrier, or hot-tempered, or bitter, or jealous, or irritable, or touchy, or dishonest, or unreliable, or unpleasant. Any one of those liabilities would turn some of us off. But God can actually see beneath all that baloney, the potential that exists in the person. God is committed to purging the flaws and producing righteous fruit in peoples' lives, our lives.
GOD ORCHESTRATES THE INCIDENTS THAT TRANSFORM OUR CHARACTER
He takes ordinary people and converts them by his power using pleasant or unpleasant occurrences to accomplish his purpose. In Simon's life we can see how several such incidents helped to turn him into a rock-solid servant of Christ. We can therefore appreciate that many of the things presently happening to us are also being used by God to recast us. As we yield to him, God changes us into the likeness of the One who pleases Him most - Jesus His Son.
From Reluctance to Obedience
Surrounded by enthusiastic people, Jesus found it impossible to address them. At the shoreline were two boats and Jesus stepped into one, Peter's. He then asked Peter to take the boat out a short distance. Standing up, he spoke to the crowd. When he finished, Jesus instructed Peter to navigate into deeper water and throw out the fishing nets. Although he had just worked a fruitless night-shift and initially objected, Peter nevertheless complied. Night fishing was done in the shallows when fish came to feed close to shore. The nets were designed for shallow water. It was daytime now, and Peter did not expect to catch anything. No wonder Peter became afraid when the nets contained so many fish that they filled two boats to the point of capsizing. He should be terrified. Christ's divine greatness broke in upon Peter. (Luke 5:1-11)
"Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" (Luke 5:8 NIV)
Jesus saw the potential in this weathered man with the sensitive heart. Jesus comforted and commissioned him and the others. "Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men" (Luke 5:10, NIV). Simon was Peter in the making. An entirely new volume of life and opportunities opened up to Peter.
Your own job may or may not be people-related. It may have to do with machines or clothing material, or typing or filing but you still meet people. Jesus is in your occupational boat and will empower you to make your people contacts count for eternity. Nothing compares with seeing God do the seemingly impossible just once. It wets our appetites for more. Think of someone you want to see come to know Christ as Saviour and pray for that person. Think of an enslaving habit you must deal with and ask the Lord for victory. Respond to every impulse of the Spirit to action. God changes us.
From Terror to Trust
Fear often deters us from doing the things we want to do or know that we should do. We live with regrets. Things we might have done if cold feet had not impeded us. Following the fabulous feeding of thousands of hungry people, Jesus sent the disciples by boat across the Sea of Galilee. He himself went up into the hills to pray. By nightfall, far out at sea, the boat carrying the disciples was experiencing some rough weather. Jesus became aware of their dilemma and made his way to them. Here the story becomes riveting. (Matthew 14:22-33)
In the reduced light of evening, he came walking on the surface of the waves. Understandably, they were panicked, thinking that a phantom from the deep was tormenting them. Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid" (Matthew 14:27, NIV).
So excitable and frightened was Peter that he begged Jesus to certify himself by also empowering Peter to walk on water so he could come to Jesus. Jesus indulged Peter's bold request. He'll do the same with you if you'll take a step of faith. He loves to reward faith. He wants to grow faith. Faith as small as a seed of the mustard plant has vast potential. Slipping out of the boat Peter moved on the water's surface in Christ's direction. As soon as the wind whipped up the surf, he became conscious of his peril and unaware of Christ. As he was sinking he cried out to Jesus, "Lord, save me!"And Jesus reached out and seized him and said, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Is there something about your life with God about which you have doubts? Are you struggling to believe something that others seem to be taking for granted? Do you wonder whether the Lord has control over a specific problem in your life? Are you worried, afraid? Lift your eyes higher than your circumstances. That's it, a little higher still. Now, can you see Jesus as the Bible portrays him, able to do what is humanly impossible? Friend, he has not changed. And you will find that as you actively trust him, you can do everything you need to do through him as he strengthens you.
From Ambivalence to Conviction
Our spiritual development often comes in fits and starts. We make some progress, hit a plateau, and then are challenged again. We experience ups and downs. We wish it weren't so. 
Jesus asked his disciples who people considered him to be (Matthew 16:13-23). What were the popular notions? They related the current speculations. Some thought John the Baptist had come back from the dead. Some believed Jesus was a resurrected Elijah. Others considered him a modern Jeremiah. Then Jesus personalized the question. "Whom do you say that I am?" Without batting an eye, Peter replied that Jesus was the Son of the living God. Peter had moved from ambivalence to conviction. Peter was right on and Jesus affirmed him by telling him that God had personally revealed this truth to him. Then Jesus gave Simon a blessing. "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My church; the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
Jesus saw Simon's character strengths that could be used to build a people movement that would affect the world. Jesus promised to give Peter the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and for this reason we later see Peter involved in opening the door of the Gospel to the major people groups, the Jews at Pentecost, the Samaritans and the Gentiles in Cornelius' house.
You can assist in building Christ's kingdom.As you have acknowledged Christ as the Son of God and the Lord of your life, he has recognized and claimed for himself your character qualities, natural abilities and developed talents. He intends to use you if you permit him.
From Confusion to Understanding
When Jesus announced his imminent death, the news injured his disciples. They were convinced about his deity, but with this disturbing information they struggled to understand how or why deity should die. To remove the sting, Jesus said that some of them would not die before they saw the Son of Man come with power.
Within the week Jesus' words were fulfilled as he was suddenly transfigured before three of them, his face and garments emitting a dazzling radiance. For thirty years his human body had competently concealed his deity, but on this occasion his authentic glory shone through the veil of his flesh in a most convincing demonstration. Peter and the others were satisfied that he was the glorious Son of God. Nonetheless, Peter still did not fully grasp Christ's purpose. Correct about Christ's death, Peter was completely mistaken about Christ's work. In the account of the transfiguration, two figures out of history emerged to the disciples and to Jesus. Moses and Elijah were there as symbols of the Old Testament body of law and prophecy which substantiated Christ's Messianic claims. These two conversed with Jesus about his imminent death. Although they lived five hundred years before Christ, they agreed that God's plan for Jesus involved his death.
1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” 10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” 11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.(Matthew 17:1-13)
Simon was strengthened and positively affected by this experience as the faceless voice of God audibly confirmed that Jesus was truly His own beloved Son. We are a fortunate generation. We can read Christ's life story, the chronicle of his supernatural activities and the record of his love for people. The real Jesus is the one whom the Bible describes. His deity shines through on every page that speaks about him. With the exercise of our faith we can understand why God the Father said that Jesus was His beloved Son in whom He was always pleased. To contribute to your spiritual growth, make sure you are reading regularly from one of the gospels. 
From Guilt to Forgiveness
For the proper development of our Christian character, we must not only acquire a right theology but also a practical theology. As we learn who Christ is and what he is like, we are called upon to represent him by being like him. A primary characteristic, by which we resemble him, is a forgiving spirit. 
When I envision Peter, the rugged and tough fisherman before he met Jesus, I see someone who would ask for no apologies when he was insulted but would take the offender out with a right to the nose. The personal growth in Peter's life since his exposure to Christ became obvious. Peter put a question to Jesus. How many times is it necessary to forgive a person before you throw in the towel, give up on the guy and say forget it. Then Peter offered his own suggestion of an appropriate number. Forgiving someone seven times for a repeated offence seemed suitable to Peter. That was progress but Jesus set the bar higher for this divine capacity to forgive. "Forgive him seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21-22, NIV).
The forgiving spirit was then illustrated by the exaggerated story of a servant who begged for mercy from his master that he not be thrown into prison for his unpaid debts. I say the exaggerated illustration because the approximate monetary equivalent today would be $20 million dollars. Shortly after receiving clemency, he had occasion to summon a debtor before him who owed him the measly sum of twenty dollars. Rather than show the man mercy, he had him arrested and incarcerated. The upshot was that the master threw the merciless servant into prison, cancelled the pardon and demanded his money back. Locked in jail, he stood no chance of release or of redeeming himself. (Matthew 18:21-35)
Surely we can all appreciate that we consistently taste the forgiveness of God. Rather than fill the back rooms of our memories with grudges, we are obliged to exercise compassion and forgiveness with others. Because there are days when we are in need of great forgiveness, we must also practice forgiving others. That's the way the Lord taught us to pray.
From Pride to Humility
Another aspect of our character development as Christ's followers is an attitude of humble service. The humble believer serves others best. God's estimate of personal greatness is the exact opposite of the world's valuation. God examines how many people you serve and with what kind of spiritual posture. Nowhere in scripture, apart from the cross itself, was that truth more evident than in the upper room the evening that Jesus did what the disciples were too proud to do. Before a meal, it was customary for guests to have their feet bathed. All day people clopped about in sandals on the dusty roads. Then they came to dinner and curled up on small divans at a low table. Sitting so close to each other they needed clean feet. It was customary for the house servant or the youngest member of the household to perform this task but no one had volunteered. Jesus seized the moment and performed the servant's chore, washing the feet of the table guests in preparation for the meal. (John 13:3-15)
Few things that Jesus did inspire us more than this humble example. We expected miracles from him. This action comes as a shock. It surprised the disciples. It certainly made an impression on Peter. He objected at the way this act seemed to demean Jesus but he also learned a valuable lesson. Years later, when writing his first letter, Peter said, "Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" (1 Peter 5:5, NIV cf. James 4:6, NIV)
Christ saw potential in Peter that did not meet the eye. Jesus sees in you and me the potential no one else sees. What remarkable changes He is making in our lives. Let's permit him to have his way with us without objection or resistance.
From Shame to Courage
One of the saddest episodes in all of scripture is the incident of Peter's denial of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:27-31)
For some of us who are already familiar with Jesus, with theology, with scripture and who have been involved in Christian work for some time, there is still a very real danger that we can develop a mistaken self-confidence. Let's take the necessary precautionary action.
When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, he wanted Peter to be praying too. But Peter slept. Jesus warned Peter that he was going to deny Christ, yet Peter, instead of treating the admonition attentively, denied the possibility. He might have asked the Lord for help but he chose to refuse the truth, drifting merrily without a paddle, toward the brink of an avoidable disaster. While still in the garden when the mob came, Peter made a momentary show of valour as he tried to defend Jesus by wielding a sword and injuring the high priest's servant. But that was merely the human reflex of anger and fear. As soon as he was alone with temptation following Christ's arrest, Peter's moral cowardice surfaced. He had been over-confident. Prayer would have prepared him with courage from the Lord to admit that he knew and loved Jesus regardless of the consequences. 
Aren't there times in our spiritual development when the sand and clay of our lives is still obvious? It's unstable, quivering material. Yet God, with our potential in mind, will make us rock-solid, reliable and courageous, if we will obey him and pray. Peter became one of the primary spokespersons of the early church following his failure and forgiveness. He learned to rely upon the Lord. Stalwartly, he faced numerous threats against him as he declared redemption in Christ. He learned that needed courage comes from trusting the Lord rather than oneself.
Not one of us is the same as we were before meeting Christ. Each of us passes through stages of growth and our lives bear the fingerprints of God as He moulds us into perfection. God can do in our lives what He did in Peter's. Like Peter, according to our willingness and obedience, God will turn us into soft rocks, people with tender hearts and unyielding resolves to be faithful.

My Book website: Ron Unruh

Friday, June 7, 2019

ONE DAY AT A TIME

We are friends yet know so little of each other’s worlds
Though I’ve written and talked a lot, many thoughts stay private
You’ll never hear some cloistered hurts I won’t even tell myself
I’ll never learn the circumstance when your innocence was lost
Yet when I spend my time with you insights become your gift to me
You’ve strengthened me by your inner grit to survive past tragedy
My own journey felt some hard spots yet the jaunt has been worthwhile
Struggling with what’s damaged is my contest every day
The expression of our mutual hurts comes out in different ways
We listen to each other and we commiserate as we can
Reminding one another that true love learns to forgive 
Re-engaging lovingly each day is our optimal way to live.

© Ron Unruh June 2019

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

HALF-POINT MELTDOWN

Droning routines, annoyed with people, worn at the edges, 
I recall time as unbearable in need of major change.
Should the change be disconnection from previous pledges?
A most plausible option tho admittedly strange,
I tried to ask but no one listened at all. 

Unpredictably common this shared human occasion, 
Half way through our fleeting lives, mortality comes knocking.  
To be brave and hang in there demands robust persuasion, 
Advice to hold tightly is morality talking,
Yet sometimes you don’t care to listen at all. 

I understand, and I know that about which I’m speaking. 
I myself suffered discontentment and disillusion,
Emotional tears flowed as my sad spirit was shrieking  
My heart and mind were crippled by tortured confusion. 
At that blue time I couldn’t listen at all.

The worst advice I received was from someone with money. 
“Get a grip” was his obtuse counsel and his bottom line. 
Healed and humorous now, at the time it wasn’t funny, 
“Take your time,” from someone wiser, “and you will be fine,”  
From somebody whose kind heart listened to all. 

More than a quarter century ago I found my way through
Then aware of human despair where stop or change occurs
Employed kindness to others from distress by which I grew, 
Sharing patience, love, and peace - what everyone prefers.
So they were thrilled that I had listened at all.

© Ron Unruh, 2019



Tuesday, June 4, 2019

today, would be MOM’S 100th BIRTHDAY

My mother Tina would have celebrated her birthday today, June 4. She has been absent from her family since November 2007. Time passes and memories blur in spite of the best intentions to remember. It is photographic images that arouse the recall. 


What an interesting woman Mom was. Born in Saskatchewan in a farming community, living in Waldheim and Hepburn, she had a grade nine education and she began to work hard at an early age. She was industrious from the start, knowing how to sew, how to bake and to cook. She did unskilled work, clerking and switchboard operator. She married Edward Richard Unruh, but soon their lives were interrupted by WWII and my father’s enlistment into the Royal Canadian Air Force. The post war years began with them teaming to start and to run a Coffee Shop in Hepburn. Soon however, Dad felt that opportunity for employment and a future existed in Ontario and the family, Dad, me, and a pregnant Mom moved to St. Catharines ON.

They rented accommodation for many years, a condemned two room shack, then a downtown St. Paul St. third floor apartment, then a full house in Rosedale Gardens, a suburban subdivision on the outside of St. Catharines, then a large house on Clark St., then to James St., and finally when I was twelve, and Mom was 37 we moved to the first home Mom and Dad owned. It was a 3 bedroom bungalow with unfinished basement on Bunting Rd., well outside downtown St. Catharines. 

During all of those years, while her children grew, Mom did housework for other women, some occasional sewing of garments. She was hired to sew costumes for the local skating club. She worked in her church, Calvary Church, always in the kitchen. It was what she knew best to do, and what she became known for. In fact, over time, she operated her own Catering Business, and prepared grand dinners for large gatherings of corporations and families. Wealthy people hired Tina Unruh. Her happiest employment was as Day-time Food Services provider for Ontario Paper head office. She even prepared a cook book of her many recipes and those of others, and had my brother Neale and I design some art work, then self published 1000 copies and sold them all. 

Perhaps her greatest personal fulfillment was found as she worked with the local church women’s group, took on a leadership roll, and became recognized as a woman of integrity, of spirituality and was elected eventually to the presidency of the entire southern Ontario region. She had to lead meetings, give talks and presentations, and while humbled and sometimes terrified, she amazed herself that she could do this and that her leadership was valued. By this time, her three sons, were each of us in some form of Christian ministry ourselves. She would say over and over that we were a constant source of joy for her. 

She was a much loved mother and grandmother and great grandmother.
See also, an archived tribute from 2011.
See entry for November 2011 on a fourth anniversary of her death.