The Carpenter Held His Baby

GodReflection: It’s a Boy—We Worship the Gift Baby

gary-2015I already have a partial to do list for the next reality on the new earth. Can you imagine the fun it will be to drink coffee with God’s faithful greats?

I am anxious to spend some of my eternal time with Joseph the carpenter. I have great admiration for carpenter types. My dad was a carpenter named Joe. I’m easily drawn to a good carpenter Do It Yourself television show.

Is my aim set too high to look toward a relaxed cup of hot coffee with Joseph the carpenter and his son who learned the trade in the village of Nazareth? I’m sure my dad the carpenter will join us.

carpenter4Carpenters are thoughtful types. They measure twice and cut once. They reflect and plan. Carpenters are craftsmen. They approach their work with care and creativity. They craft their life with many of the same skills.

I suspect God selected Joseph as the best man he knew to raise His Holy man-son. He and Mary had hearts that beat with God’s. Upon discovery that his virgin bride to be was pregnant he listened to this message from God and obeyed:

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus (Matthew 1:20-21 & 23-25).

In his short appearance in the Gospels we see a man whose trust was in God. At every request from the Holy, Joseph reflected Mary’s response, “I am the Lord’s servant” (Luke 1:38).

carpenter18A carpenter’s hands are rough. The constant use of tools form callouses on palms and fingers. Carpenters hold in common a missing finger or a partial digit from a rare slip of a saw, knife or sharp chisel.

Those were the hands that both held and guided his son Jesus. I wonder how often the thought crossed his mind that into his hands was handed the gift and responsibility to raise “God with us?”

I’m getting ahead of myself.

It was census time in Rome. Caesar Augustus wanted to know how many people lived inside his empire. Joseph took his pregnant virgin wife to Bethlehem to participate in the count. It was the law.

Without technology for reservations they arrived and the hotels of the day were already full. It must have been a compassionate Jewish family who had only room left in the barn cave with the family animals. Protected from the night elements it would have to carpenter16do.

Then it happens. Mary gives birth to God’s baby—now Joseph’s baby. Surely, it was Joseph—ever the creative carpenter—who combine a feed holder with fresh straw to create a comfy bed for their newly arrived son.

Scripture doesn’t share details of Joseph’s touch as a father. I bet he grew up holding baby sisters and runny nose little brothers at the request of his own mother.

Now, a carpenter by trade, I can easily envision his rough-skinned fingers touch the soft little face of his baby boy. He was careful not to let a stray piece of straw near new skin. He must have held Jesus countless times as he assisted Mary.

Carefully, he moved the baby from crib to mother’s lap or secured his son in his arms as he passed him to Mary seated upon the family donkey or on the seat of the family cart.

The last mention of the carpenter comes with Jesus’ miracles and teaching in his hometown. Matthew records the skeptical audience response with:

carpenter12“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?

Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things” (Matthew 13: 55-56)?

And interestingly, Mark records the people’s reaction as:

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?

Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him (Mark 6:2-3).

The carpenter’s son held in the arms of his carpenter father grew into his own identity as the carpenter.

This holiday season I want to tune out the noise of marketeers who target my selfishness and greed. I want to quiet the magnetic powerful cultural draw toward commercialism and be held like a baby in the arms of the carpenter’s son who is now the carpenter applying his craft to skillfully form my soul into the image of the Holy.

Want you join with me?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: The Carpenter Held His Baby


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He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10/NIV

Jesus was God’s perfect reflection; His desire to please the God of All was that all of us know how loved we are.

We are the best reflection when we know and feel God’s love down to our bones.

To be still and know God is to know who we are and Whose we are.

Peace is a ceasing from striving, of seeing commonality with each person around us.

The Good News Translation writes Psalm 46:10 this way…

“Stop fighting,” he says, “and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme over the world.

Sitting quietly in nature, refusing to have a demeanor of argumentation, releasing ALL that hinders in that meditation through thanksgiving and humor grows my spirit. I know more deeply God’s beauty through Love, nature and connection which is  transformational.

God Is already pleased with us through Christ’s work, and when we simply live in this truth, we are fully alive…

And God Is exalted!


Come and See Forgiveness

GodReflection: Come and See—God Saved the Best for Now

“Come and see,” said Philip (John 1:46). “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now” (John 2: 10).

gary-2015Forgiveness is a messy commodity. I suspect you can readily join with me  in my observation that we human types don’t handle forgiveness well. Whether I’m the offender or the one offended there seems to be two commonalities—a too often occurrence and more often than I would like, my “all thumbs” in reaching toward resolution. That is with people, not to even mention my more direct offenses of omission and commission against Holy God.

forgive1Then there is the difficulty of my normal expectation that God and the others in my life should forgive me; while in reverse I hesitate to pardon someone I should forgive. I sometime find I need the seventy times seven attempts to forgive a person who has wronged me.

In John’s Gospel he invites me to come and see God who not only forgives betrayal, but in love reinstates the dignity that is a gift of the Holy.

It was only Peter’s third encounter with Jesus after the resurrection. In servant mode Jesus has prepared breakfast for the seven fishing disciples. There is no indication that  Peter has approached the subject of his three denials just prior to the crucifixion.

forgive12To be fair, Luke’s he went outside and wept bitterly (Luke 22:62) describes Peter’s repentant sobs after his third denial as he hears the rooster crow and makes eye contact with his captive teacher.

The Holy has always taken the initiative to seek.

Jesus calls out to those on the boat. Jesus builds his breakfast fire in Peter’s sight line. Breakfast is ready. Fish and Bread cook and warm within the hot coals. Jesus connects the fishermen with the school of fish. Jesus is doing no less than setting the stage for forgiveness. Jesus invites, Come and have breakfast. And to us John calls out, Come and see forgiveness.

forgive20But now the beach breakfast is over and the Son of God carefully and tenderly begins the process to demonstrate his love and forgiveness to the man who claimed three times he had nothing to do with Jesus.

I see in Peter a fisherman’s heart. Apparently, he still owned a boat. He must have liked the breeze, the quiet and the warmth of the sun. As a man wired for action the whole process of preparation, net casting and anticipation had to be a great fit. To be on the water daily suited him fine.

fish4I think Jesus must have looked over at what was left from the pile of 153 fish to help him recommit to a broken allegiance. He uses the morning’s catch as a starting place to cleanse him with forgiveness. Where is his security? Does Peter love Jesus more than he loves to fish and run his own life?

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep (21:15-18).

forgive19Jesus then reminds Peter of his independent lifestyle before they met. As a young man he made his own decisions. He selected his own clothes, went fishing when he wanted and set the daily course of his life (21:18-19).

It’s time to parallel the second miraculous fish catch to the first.

It’s time to once again accept Holy forgiveness and for the final time make“Follow me!” his life’s priority.

The best forgiveness was saved for Peter’s now and for our now.

Peter got the message. Not long after, he witnessed the ascension, he boldly served as Jesus’ spokesman on Pentecost when the church began, and he lived into the love and forgiveness of Jesus until reunited with his master after his own crucifixion.

It is the power of Holy forgiveness that John invites me to come and see at a breakfast hosted by Jesus on a beach.

I would love to hear how you have learned to live under the umbrella of that same forgiveness?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: Come and See Forgiveness



Come and See the Great Fisherman

GodReflection: Come and See—God Saved the Best for Now

“Come and see,” said Philip (John 1:46). “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now” (John 2: 10).

gary-2015The Pecos River flowed into my childhood. It cut from north to south through our portion of the Chihuahuan Desert. From it crops received water, children learned to swim and Grandpa taught me to fish. For him to fish was to encounter pure joy.

fish1Through his life he taught me fishing is more about the experience than the quantity of catch. When the fish were biting that was just an extra layer of frosting on the cake.

Grandpa fished for recreation. Had either he or I required sustenance from the river we would both have died young.

Jesus knew more about fishing than the professionals. (Having created both water and fish helped). Twice he guided fishermen to a miraculous catch as a sign to point to his heart and to the heart of His Father God. The first account isn’t included in John’s Gospel.

To get the backstory for John’s “belief stop” we must switch momentarily from John’s witness to Luke’s call of the twelve.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

fish8When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners (Luke 5:4-10).

Obviously, John remembered.

It was a landmark event in the start of his walk toward belief. It has to be in his mind as he invites us to come and see a similar sign to restore hope and belief—both dead from crucifixion.

fish13In the midst of a few days a lot of brain fog must have set in among the apostles surrounding Jesus’ death, the resurrection and the future. Thus far, they have seen him only twice since his return from the dead. However, the Romans are still in charge.

The same people who killed Jesus are still on the streets. Surely, the disciples remain vigilant. The kingdom Jesus spoke of remains out of sight. His instructions must seem sketchy at best. “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (20:17). “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (20:21). “Receive the Holy Spirit, If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them they are not forgiven” (20:23).

Peter is in need of time to process and to sort out the last few days. There is nothing like a fishing trip to clear the head. It’s time to go fishing.

Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing (21:2-3).

fish5Once again it snuck up on them. Even though it had happened three years ago they didn’t see it coming. Fishermen readily offer advice. In the light of early morning seven fisherman approached shore with their empty boat and a man calls from the beach:

“Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish (21:5-6).

They all seem to realized reality at the same instant. It’s the same voice and the same result they had experienced when first call by Jesus.

John exclaims, “It is the Lord!”

As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he . . . jumped into the water.  The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish . . .  Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 

fish6So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.

 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord (21:6-12).

John invites us to Come and see the Great Fisherman. It’s as if Jesus uses their trade to make one last pictorial lesson. His power hasn’t diminished. He renews the call “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people” (Matthew 4:19-20).

Quietly, the voice echoes over twenty-plus centuries as we join the disciples in the boat to listen for the call of the Great Fisherman. He still leads his disciples to be alert for people he places within our sphere of influence.

He saved the best till now we get to fish with the Great Fisherman—the Creator of the universe. How should that change our perspective as we go about our daily walk?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: Come and See the Great Fisherman




Come and See the Holy Helper

GodReflection: Come and See—God Saved the Best for Now

“Come and see,” said Philip (John 1:46). “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now” (John 2: 10).

gary-2015I’ve never doubted that I was designed to play a participatory role in life. At the same time, it didn’t take too many steps along the trail to see that the things which seem to be within my control can be listed on a rather small screen.

Not too long ago over a telephone conversation with my friend Jim R., we talked with amusement of the illusion we experienced in our former “work world” of “being in charge” only to awake in our “elderly years” to helper11the realization that nothing is really in our control.

I need a Holy Helper. Life is hard.

Restaurants tease their diners with appetizers. Movie Theaters show previews. Televisions and computer screens light up with the advertisements of soon to be released products. Each year Apple manufactures suspense as it builds to announce the new iPhone.

In John’s Gospel he invites me to come and see a preview of the Holy Helper. He doesn’t offer a lot of detail. It is more like a description of an appetizer that will draw me toward something even better.

helper4So, his first hint is, the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified (7:39). Next, he shares a statement from Jesus, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth (14:16-17). And, when He arrives His presence will be recognized, for he lives with you and will be in you.

Finally, Jesus tells his disciple see that he has to depart earth for his Triune Holy Spirit to indwell within: it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you (16:7).

The remainder of the New Testament stands as the fulfillment of Jesus promise. The Holy Helper is truly one of God’s best saved for my now.

To be truthful, I am still in learning mode when it comes to Jesus advocacy from within. It’s a daily challenge to live into the promise: he lives with you and will be in you.

It seems to me that this “inside relationship” calls me to participate in at least three ways.

helper18First, I find that I need to keep the flow of Scripture in my life to help me identify His presence and His actions. I would like to think that I do this reasonably well. Although, I must admit I am woefully unaware of the totality of the Holy presence.

Second, my side of the conversation with the Holy is expressed by worship, gratitude, presentation of needs, pleas, observations and submission. Certainly, I would not grade myself with high marks on this one.

Third, I must return to my previously mentioned Jim R. conversation. Each day I realize helper15more and more how very little of life is within my control. I am more acutely aware than ever of how much I need the Holy Helper.

Increasingly, I find my language has begun to change in my prayer life. I hope it has moved more toward the trust side of the continuum.

I find my request to be more along the lines of, “Lord, I trust you to solve this in your way and in your time. Show me how you might want me to help.”

I close where I started. I need a Holy Helper. Life is hard.

I would love to hear what you have observed through the years of how the Holy Helper shows his presence within you.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: Come and See the Holy Helper

Come and See a Dead Man Raised

GodReflection: Come and See—God Saved the Best for Now

“Come and see,” said Philip (John 1:46). “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now” (John 2: 10).

gary-2015I’ve attended a rather long list of services for the dead throughout my life and experience the finality of the casket lowered into the grave. Never once have I heard a corps asks for rescue from the bottom of a six-foot hole before the casket disappears under shovels of dirt. Never once have I heard the call to resurrection.

I’ll get back to burials in a moment. But first, John the author of the Fourth Gospel, wants me to come and see a house. It’s that house that perhaps we’ve experienced in reality or at times in the deepest desires of our heart. It’s the house where we feel at home.

dead10In the Gospels it was the home Jesus seemed to enjoy after he left his hometown Nazareth.

Just a short walk from Jerusalem was the house of Martha, Lazarus and Mary where he could always find rest, friendship and home baked meals.

Our look at this home is rewarded not only by what is recorded in John and the other Gospels but also by all that jumps out between the lines through conversation with the two sisters. Jesus loved these three siblings.

About halfway through the narrative the apostle John is ready to illustrate future reality. Jesus’ love for Lazarus and his sisters will make a perfect picture of God’s desire for His creation. It will be a living illustration of God’s grace. The sign will take place, “for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (11:4).

John wants me to see an eternal reality in Jesus so here comes another sign that Jesus is God.

dead4The scene is set. Lazarus identified as “He whom you love” (11:3) died. Instead of a quick departure Jesus waits for two days after receipt of the message. I suspect he wants all to know Lazarus is indeed dead. He leaves time for reality to set in, doubts to appear and faith to grow.

Jesus leaves for Judea and the little town of Bethany. As he approaches, Martha learns he is near and goes to meet him. Four days ago, Lazarus was wrapped with strips of cloth and sealed in a tomb. For finality a stone closed the entrance.

After the greeting their conversation reveals her growing faith: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God . . .” (11:27).

Then follows the encounter of Mary and Jesus which is one of the most moving dialogues dead0.pngin all of Scripture:

. . . she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.

He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (11:32-36)

It’s time to go to the grave site to see the dead man raised.

 Jesus, once more deeply moved came to the tomb . . . “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone (11:38-41).

Jesus looks upward and speaks in a loud voice directly to God so that the crowd could see the connection.

dead00“Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go” (11:41-44).

What can I learn from this Lazarus who is raised from the dead but does not speak a word in my Bible? This is a great illustration of the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Here is what I think.

dead15My two big take-a-ways are first, to see how Jesus is affected by the death experience. He is deeply saddened—moved to tears—to see the pain it causes to people he loves.

Second, the Holy has a commitment to make death obsolete. The glory of Father and Son unite to give a preview of their power over death.

I would love to hear your insights as to why this is a come and see event for John and why it illustrates for you that God has saved the best for now.

In the next post I want to follow up with the celebration of the siblings.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: Come and See a Dead Man Raised




Come and See I am the One Who Jesus Loved

GodReflection: Come and See—God Saved the Best for Now

“Come and see,” said Philip (John 1:46). “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now” (John 2: 10).

gary-2015Five times in John’s Gospel the apostle refers to himself as the one who Jesus loved. It just dawned upon me. I had not seen it until now.

It was not a designation given to him by others. I doubt that Jesus ever referred to him as such. Instead, Jesus called John and his brother the “sons loved3of thunder.”

I suspect they received their nickname from occasions like the time they suggested to handle the opposition with a speedy request: “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” or the request to be placed ahead of the other disciples as his number one and two people in his kingdom.

Could John’s self-designation have been an insight of genuine defect rooted deep in his heart? Was it because he realized Jesus loved him in spite of his failures that in utter amazement he self-identified as “I’m the one who Jesus loved?”

lovedHere is what I think. There is good reason to believe John was the youngest of the twelve. In fact, he outlived Paul and the other apostles.

I wonder if as the youngest of the group Jesus may have made a deep impression on him? It is not uncommon to be overwhelmed with the loss of one’s childhood sinless state in the transition toward adolescents and adulthood.

Whatever the inadequacies John brought to the band of disciples obviously he felt total and complete acceptance by the Teacher and by the Heavenly Father.

When he pens his account of Jesus he is most likely an old man. While a youngster he learned from the Teacher as a member of Jesus closest disciples and stood witness to the death, resurrection and ascension. Then, for seven decades he matured through persecution and missionary hardship as he walked with the Spirit of his Holy Master

loved11Through it all John couldn’t get over it. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17).

It’s a gift too good to be true—but it is.

He remembered the abuse, the suffering and the cross. And he recalled what Jesus told him prior to the event:

loved7My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends . . . This is my command: Love each other (15:12-13,17).

Across the pages of time far too few have grasped what John wants us to see—yes, me as an individual, I am the one who Jesus loved. Without a doubt that is God’s best saved for my now. What would it take to join John and live with this insight as a soul-felt conviction?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: Come and See I am the One Who Jesus Love