Two Minute Warming—Good Friday

Taking no more than 120 seconds to read, Two Minute Warming is an uplifting devotion to strengthen you in Jesus Christ.

I heard it, then: “Hurricane Katrina is God’s punishment on New Orleans, because it is a godless city.”

I’ve heard it, now: “The coronavirus is God’s punishment on the USA, because we have turned our back on God.”

I said it, myself, when my son got sick, which led to his death: “This happened, because I am such a terrible sinner.”

I said it to my pastor. He gently corrected me. He led me to Jesus.

To Good Friday.

From the cross, Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished (John 19:30).” His words can also be translated: “The goal has been reached,” and “It has been accomplished.”

What goal had Jesus reached in His being wounded? What had been accomplished through His bruises? What had He finished through the chastisement He suffered?

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

The stripes on Jesus’ flesh were the physical sign of the spiritual fact: by His wounds, He healed us.

Our healing is finished. Christ paid for the sins of the world. “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. … God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:19 & 21).”

When terrible events occur in the world and in your life—hurricanes, this coronavirus, untimely death—you know these things are not God’s punishment, for He punished Jesus in our place.

When you fall short of what you should do, you can trust that the Lord will not zap you for it.

When you turn to Him in faith, He will always greet you with love and mercy, because the punishment for sin was accomplished in the death of Jesus.

Since Jesus has finished the job, why do we still suffer in so many ways? The Lord continues to allow these things as discipline for us, to teach us that we are weak so that we lean on His strength, and to keep us in faith so that we always realize this generation is dying and only His death conquers death.

We focus on Christ’s death and resurrection, looking forward to our own resurrection from the dead and the Paradise of the new creation, which will have no end.

Two Minute Warming—Maundy Thursday

Taking no more than 120 seconds to read, Two Minute Warming is an uplifting devotion to strengthen you in Jesus Christ.

On the night in which Jesus was betrayed, as He had His disciples gathered for His final Passover—which He ordained to be the communing in His body and blood for them and for us—He gave them the mandate (from which Maundy is derived): “A new command I give you: Love one another (John 13:34).”

He didn’t end there. The Lord never commands us to do anything He won’t, or doesn’t, first do. He continued, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

As I have loved you.

How do we know how to love? We look at the Lord. We read the Holy Bible, seeing from the first chapter how the Lord loved by creating all things.

We keep reading. Soon, we see the first sin and how when the Lord confronted Adam, and Adam sassed Him to His face, the Lord did not kill him. Rather, the Lord continued to love him. He promised the Savior.

Look at Peter, who, before Jesus was betrayed, had sworn his allegiance to Jesus, then, after Jesus was arrested, denied even knowing Jesus. When Jesus was resurrected and went to His disciples, how did He treat Peter? Did He berate him? Condemn him? Expel him? No, He loved Peter. He commended Peter to do the work for which He called him to be an apostle.

Look at yourself. Examine your life. Your thoughts about others. Your words against others. Your actions that have hurt others.

Look at the times you have failed to love others in the manner you want and expect them to love you.

Now, look at your faith in Jesus Christ. You believe in Him, that He walked to the cross for the joy set before Him—to save you and all—scorning its shame, and now sits at the right hand of His Father (Hebrews 12:2).

Why do you believe in Him for your forgiveness? Trust Him for your salvation? Love Him for giving you eternal life?

Here’s why: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).”

The love of God the Father, through the actions and accomplishments of His Son Jesus, delivered to us through the work of the Holy Spirit, is what fills us.

The love of Jesus Christ fills you.

From His love, you love.

Two Minute Warming—Palm Sunday

Taking no more than 120 seconds to read, Two Minute Warming is an uplifting devotion to strengthen you in Jesus Christ.

Donkeys are beasts of burden. They exist to serve, not to be served.

Kings don’t ride donkeys. Conquering heroes don’t ride donkeys. Messiahs don’t ride donkeys.

Why did Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-11)? As He paraded through Jerusalem, the people certainly lauded Him as a king. Those who’d heard of His miracles—feeding thousands from so little, giving sight to the blind, even raising the dead—viewed Him as a conquering hero. Indeed, they were bent on placing Him into the office of messiah, the one who would get those stinking Romans off their backs and out of their land.

He was a messiah, of course—The Anointed One—but He would not simply be a burger king to satisfy their daily hunger, or an army commander to defeat their temporal enemy.

Jesus arrived in Jerusalem that He might serve these people, and all people, as the ultimate beast of burden.

Riding a donkey was emblematic of the Lord’s humility. Come Thursday, one of His own would betray Him into the hands of the Roman authorities. Though His arrest would be unjust, He would not argue. Though His trials before Pilate and Herod would be unjust, He would not put up a defense. Though His crucifixion would be unjust, He forgave the very ones who executed Him.

Kings don’t ride donkeys. Kings don’t die on crosses. Not according to our way of thinking. But our ways are not God’s ways.

Not on that Friday did anyone hail Jesus as the conquering hero. On that day, He was nothing more than an uncommon criminal. Crucified between two real thugs. Mocked. Shamed. Humiliated.

This coming Friday, we will hail Jesus as The Conquering Hero. We hail Him, today, as our King. We acknowledge Him every day as the Messiah He was and is, for He took all our beastly sins into His flesh. He carried our every burden. And, in His death, He put them all to death.

This Palm Sunday, we are blessed to cry Hosanna! knowing why Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. He did it for us.

He did it for you.

To carry your every burden.

So that, through His resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, He could daily and always make good on His promise: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).”

Two Minute Warming—Matthew 6:9

Taking no more than 120 seconds to read, Two Minute Warming is an uplifting devotion to strengthen you in Jesus Christ.

The most common way we pray is to address the Lord, often as Father, petitioning Him at the end in the name of Jesus Christ.

When the Lord Jesus taught us to pray (the Lord’s Prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13), He taught us to address God as Father, but He neglected the part about making our petitions in His name.

Or did He?

As wonderful a thing as there is for us to know about Jesus Christ is that He is our brother in the flesh. He became one of us. On our level. Like us in every way—including being tested and tempted—yet without ever sinning (Hebrews 4:15).

Yes, from out of eternity, He is our Creator (John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16). And, by His Good Friday death and Easter resurrection, He is our Savior. And having ascended to heaven He sends His Holy Spirit to us that we might believe in Him and have our every prayer heard and answered according to what is best.

Yet, for as lofty as He is—true God, with the Father and the Holy Spirit—He is as down to earth as we are—true man, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius, crucified, died, and buried—our brother in all that we mortals are.

Through faith in His atoning sacrifice, He brings us into the eternal family. As sons and daughters of God, we are privileged to call Him Father—spiritual siblings of God the Son, our brother Jesus.

So, what about the Lord’s Prayer? Why don’t we pray it in Jesus’ name? Ah, but we do!

The answer is in the word our.

As with our typical prayers, we do not conclude the Lord’s Prayer in Jesus’ name. We begin it in His name. When He teaches us to pray “Our Father in heaven,” He unites us to Himself. His prayer is our prayer is His prayer.

When we pray, He sits at the right hand of our Father speaking for us (Matthew 10:32).

When we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” the Lord Jesus speaks similarly, “Father, this is your child praying to you—one for whom I died.”

He died for you. He lives for you. He sits at the right hand of the Father for you!

Write your story

During these days of lockdown, many of you have time on your hands. After you have cleaned every corner of your home and worn out your TV remote from binge-watching, how might you spend your time and use it well?

Write your story!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My mother died in 1986, at sixty-two. Her death came suddenly. The many stories she could have written were left to the memories of those of us who knew her.

My father died ten years ago. He was eighty-three. When he was eighty, his second wife, Louise, wisely encouraged him to write his story, and to write letters to each of his kids. Dad went to work.

The morning of Dad’s funeral, Louise gathered us kids. She was holding envelopes. As she handed one to each of us, she told us how Dad had written his story and had a letter for each of us. On this day of great loss, we also enjoyed great gain. Dad’s letter is precious to me.

Dad wrote in long hand. In 2018, I typed his autobiography into my computer. I published here—https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/j-john-eilers-autobiography/—on March 17, 2018, when he would have turned ninety-one.

The pages my father wrote.

Last year, I published my life story. As I gave books to family and friends, one person after another said, “I should write a book. I’ve had quite a life. I have a lot of stories to tell.” My response was, “It was my therapist who got me writing. He said that even if I never published a book, my grandchildren would benefit from my having written down what I was experiencing.”

That was 2013. I began to write. I kept typing.

In 2015, I began a blog. I used it to tell my story.

In 2016, I had enough written that I started thinking about a book. I went back to the beginning of my life and wrote.

2018 brought a resolution to my health issues such that I found a way to write the conclusion to the longest chapter of my life. I still had no idea whether I would be able to get my memoir published, but I was determined to get it ready for printing. I retained the sense that if no one but my grandchildren read it, that made it valuable to have written.

As I searched online regarding publishers, I learned about self-publishing, that it cost nothing, and that I could issue both a printed version and an ebook.

In February 2019, I completed the job that had at one time seemed an impossibility. In March 2020, I am days away from publishing my second book. And I’ve already begun writing numbers three and four.

It doesn’t matter how you write—in long hand or into a computer—it only matters that you do it.

To aid your writing, dig out your photo albums. As you turn the pages—unable to squelch both wide grins and tears—you will dig up memories that you thought were lost.

When you reach the final pages of your albums, go back to the front. The photos will help you tell your story. The words will flow.

If you are not able to write, who might do it for you? Even if you can’t be in the same place, with computers and cell phones we can connect so easily. Perhaps, your child also has time and can type as you talk.

Don’t worry about writing well. Your grammar and punctuation need not be school-quality. My dad’s sure wasn’t. To decipher some words, I had to use the context to figure them out. And I had to fill in areas to make sense of some stories.

Because my father wrote, all of the succeeding generations of his family will benefit.

Because I wrote and published my story, more than my family are benefitting. My blog and book have led many folks to contact me—people I’ve been able to help. Not only have they received needed insights and assistance, I’ve gained by having meaningful work.

As you write, you’ll love reliving the meaningful parts of your life. Don’t fear the tough parts, and don’t keep from writing those, too. They are a vital part of your life’s story. (But don’t tell secrets that are best kept untold. You want to help, not hurt. And you’re not out to unload old grudges.)

Just think of it all—the people who formed you, the events which built you, the times that make up the whole of you. What a story you have to tell!

Having written, long after you’re gone your family will love you for writing your story!

Two Minute Warming—Psalm 121

Taking no more than 120 seconds to read, Two Minute Warming is an uplifting devotion to strengthen you in Jesus Christ.

My first parish was two congregations in northeast Iowa, both on the Mississippi. We lived in Guttenberg, a town that is two miles long and a half mile wide. From our house, everywhere I looked I saw surrounding bluffs.

I learned Psalm 121: “I lift my eyes to the hills.” The psalm’s opening was perfect for this place! And it only got better. Soon, I found myself reciting the psalm to members who were heading into surgery.

He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” I encouraged these, who were about to undergo anesthesia, that they could rest assured that the Lord would be on guard, that He never sleeps, that, come what may, He always looks out for their well being.

This is your Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God, who so cares for you that He was born of a woman just as you were. He did it so that He could unite Himself with you in your every trouble, so that He could take everything wrong into His flesh—including all of the wrongs of thought, word, and deed that you perform against God and humans and this creation—putting it all to death through His righteous death on the cross.

Before dying, the Lord Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished.” He reached the goal for which He was born.

You can trust Him because He rose from the dead, demonstrating He has power over death and every evil. Now, having ascended to heaven, “The Lord watches over you.” Now, “He who watches over you … will neither slumber nor sleep.” He is always on the job for you.

And, come what may for you, “The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Two Minute Warming—Psalm 18:2a

Taking no more than 120 seconds to read, Two Minute Warming is an uplifting devotion to strengthen you in Jesus Christ.

When I was in seminary, we lived near a busy street. Next to the street was a huge rock. It was four feet across. It stood two feet out of the ground. I imagine at least that much was in the ground.

There was no sidewalk, but a path had been worn in the grass. Most days, a man walked it. He always wore ear buds. He was often carrying something.

“The Walker,” as we Eilers dubbed him, was tall and lanky, probably in his thirties. He walked in a long, gliding stride.

He must have walked a ways because, every time, he stopped at that rock. He put his foot upon it. And then his forearms on his thigh. And he rested.

For The Walker, that rock was the same the day before, and the day before that, and many days before that. Thus, he trusted it would be the same this time. And, to be sure, he relied on it being there the next day.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is the reliable one. That’s why Scripture calls Him our Rock.

These days, we’ve been rocked pretty badly. So many of the things on which we rely—our jobs, visiting loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes, a steady income, simply going to the store—are not the strong and steadfast rocks of only a couple of weeks ago. And who knows when they will return?

Wherever the path of your life takes you, Jesus the Rock is there for your rest. He allowed Himself to be rocked as He was mocked, beaten, and crucified, so that He could overcome your every trouble, every concern, every sin. Because He was resurrected from the dead and has ascended to heaven, He proved that He finished the job. He won the victory over every evil. He did it for you.

He did it for you so that you may rest yourself upon Him—every worry, every confession of sin, every need, every thing. In return, He always loves you, always forgives you, always provides rest for your soul.

Reliably.

Like a rock.

The Rock.

Your Rock.

Two Minute Warming—John 16:33

Taking no more than 120 seconds to read, Two Minute Warming is an uplifting devotion to strengthen you in Jesus Christ.

Rare is the time that we all experience the same trouble at the same time. Right now, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Everywhere we turn, everything we ponder, everyone we think about is affected.

We are all in this one, but on any given day many of us are in situations just as serious. I’ve had my own, from the death of my son, to long lay-offs from work, to the gender dysphoria that sought to destroy me.

You can recite your own litany of troubles. Indeed, those troubles you were having when this pandemic began? They still burden you.

I appreciate that the Lord is straightforward in saying that we will have trouble. No one escapes trouble. Trouble follows us our entire lives until our lives end in the ultimate trouble: death.

You can’t stop it, so what are you going to do about it?

After assuring us we will have trouble, the Lord says the craziest thing: “Take heart!” What? How can He tell us to take heart? Because, He testifies, “I have overcome the world.”

Indeed, the Lord Jesus took every trouble into His holy flesh—suffered every trouble for our sake—and put it all to death on His cross.

Having been raised from the dead and ascended to heaven, He proved that He spoke the truth: “I have overcome the world.”

He has overcome the world. He overcame the world for you. He gives you His victory, which results in your eternal life—your own resurrection to the life in Paradise when there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4).

In this time of trouble—in every time of trouble—you may take heart, because what you cannot overcome the Lord Jesus has conquered.

He has told you this that in Him you may have peace. It’s a peace that passes all understanding. It’s a peace that gives rest to your heart and mind.

The peace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

Humor in the time of coronavirus

Yes, this kid is me. 1966. Age nine.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It seems I chose the wrong week to become less aloof.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Something good happened for me in the midst of these challenging days: my new car was delivered—a Toyota Corona!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Coronavirus reminds me of when the electricity goes out.

No electricity: I can’t watch TV. I guess I’ll read a book. Oh, wait, I can’t turn on a light. Okay, I’ll cook something good to eat. Oh, wait …

Coronavirus: I can’t go to a basketball game. I guess I’ll watch one on TV. Oh, wait, no games are being played. Okay, I’ll go out to eat. Oh, wait …

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I chose the wrong week to begin addressing my agoraphobia.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In 1980, I took up running. I’m now glad I chose it over the other thing I was pondering: mosh pit officiating.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Julie: Hon, what are you doing?

Me: Watching “Castaway.”

Julie: Again??? Why?

Me: Research, Sweetheart. Research.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

These are trying times, kids.

Remember to be kind.

And rewind.

Stress, anxiety, and depression

To you, who suffer stress, have anxiety, and live with depression, that you experience these things is not your fault.

To you, who do not suffer, have, or live with these, please be kind to those who do. They are not weaker than you, and you are not stronger than them.

I am writing this the morning of Thursday, March 12, 2020. I don’t even have to think about what’s going on in the world, and I am experiencing stress. I awoke feeling it.

Last night, the President addressed the nation. I took as the most serious move the banning of travel with European nations. Today came the news that the NBA has suspended its season. Yesterday, the NCAA announced that teams would play tournament games in empty arenas.

I can easily imagine that more cancellations will soon come. Every day feels like one falling domino in a long string of dominoes.

Tuesday, our son informed us that a coworker’s child is the student, in a local school district, who tested positive for the coronavirus, which has caused that school to shut down and the coworker to go into self-quarantine.

The President has now cancelled some of his travel. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have shelved rallies. Store shelves are emptying. Price gouging is underway. And Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson became the first famous Americans to inform us they have been infected.

I was wondering, yesterday, if we wouldn’t be wise to simply shut down the nation for a month. Keep everyone home. Hunker down. Give the virus as few avenues as possible to spread. I am thinking, today, such a move could actually happen.

This morning, I have that uneasy, on edge feeling. I am under stress.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Stop thinking about it.”

Have you ever admitted to someone that you felt stressed? Or anxious? Or depressed? And they told you to stop thinking about it. But, you’re not thinking about it. You feel it.

“Stop worrying about everything.” But, you’re not worrying. You’re not spending time thinking about things that are out of your control. Yet, you can’t shake that uneasy feeling.

“There’s nothing to be anxious about.” Logically, you know that. Your brain gets it, but your body doesn’t. You cannot keep yourself from feeling anxious.

You don’t cause it by thinking about it.

It. Grabs. You.

Similar to how we catch a cold, stress, anxiety, and depression—SAD—infect us without warning.

It is vital for us to understand this, so that we don’t make SAD into something it is not: our fault.

It is vital for those to understand this, who do not suffer SAD, so that they are able to show compassion to those who experience it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anxiety

When I was a kid, I was a worrier. If my folks were even five minutes late getting home from an evening out, I convinced myself they had been in a car accident. And I got sick to my stomach over it.

Somehow, I grew out of it. I ceased to be a worrier. I didn’t make myself into a non-worrier—it wasn’t an act of my will. It’s how I am built.

I had no idea that worry and anxiety were two different things.

When I was fifty, I had my first serious health scare: my chest was heavy. I flunked a stress test. I required two stents.

The day I returned home from the hospital, my heart began beating hard. I could not control it. I feared I was going to have a heart attack. Back to the hospital I went.

My heart was fine. I was not. I had experienced my first attack of anxiety.

I headed to my family doctor. “Doc, I’m not a worrier. I wasn’t thinking about my heart. What happened?”

He was blunt. “If you break your leg, it won’t kill you. If your heart stops, it could kill you. Your body is reacting to this brand new, serious situation you just went through.”

He prescribed Xanax.

A few days later, I needed the Xanax. On a Sunday evening, while watching TV, my heart went crazy, beating even harder than the day I got home from the hospital. I was scared. I took the Xanax.

Until it began doing its good work, I remained scared. I tried breathing slowly and taking my mind off it with the TV show. Neither worked. This was out of my control. I could not stop myself from suffering adverse effects.

Soon, I had another attack. Then another. They eventually spread out. It was a full year before they stopped. That was 2008. I’ve not had one since.

Depression

When my first wife divorced me, I became depressed. That was a new one for me—forty-four years old and my first bout of depression.

The loss of my marriage was out of my control. I could not stop myself from suffering adverse effects. All that comfort food ice cream I ate was no cure.

Depression returned when gender dysphoria gripped me. Once again, I experienced something out of my control. Trying to address it so as not to upend my life proved futile, one attempt after another. I had no control over it, and it caused me to experience huge waves of depression.

Even the past two years, since I’ve been feeling healthy, I have days where I am depressed. The day can be exactly the same as the previous one, yet I am out of sorts. Nothing I do can shake it.

Some days, I actually feel it come on. Recently, I had one of those days. I awoke and felt fine. My morning was going well. Around 10:00 a.m., I sensed it arriving. It was so tangible, I begged it to go away. I prayed the Lord that it not overcome me.

In ten minutes, it overcame me. Everything felt wrong. Dark. Negative. I cried hard. Nothing I did the rest of the day was able to help me feel better.

The next day, it was gone. I felt fine.

Stress

I have lived through a host of terrible situations. Many of them were during my years as a minister. Because the difficulties did not happen directly to me, my part was under my control. Yes, I was challenged, especially by tragic deaths. When kids die in accidents—and I ministered through three of those—a pastor is pressed to do his best work. Yet, I had charge over my part. I was able to prepare for each visit with the families, and for the funerals, and for the ministering afterward.

I was pressed, but never got depressed. Many moments were intense, yet I was never anxious. Things were tense, but I never got stressed out.

I was in control of my part. That made all the difference.

Returning to the present day, where I admitted the stress I now feel because of the coronavirus, I am experiencing stress because things feel out of control.

I need to go to the store, but I would prefer not to. The thought of potentially being infected gives me pause. The thought that I could pick up a germ, and without knowing spread it, gives me pause.

Thinking about going to church this weekend gives me pause. Sharing the peace. Taking Communion. Someone shaking my hand, when I try to do the elbow bump.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It’s now mid afternoon.

I held off going to the store. I went jogging. After I had lunch, I decided I was staying home. I am more relaxed.

I can’t put off going to the store. And I wonder whether I will be greeted by bare shelves for some items I want. And, where there is plenty, I’ll question if I should buy two. Or four. Or how many exactly can our freezer hold?

When I do go out, I will have in my pocket a companion to my wallet and keys. This morning, Julie gave me this tiny spray bottle of her homemade hand sanitizer. I will control what I can control.

I suspect there’s going to be a lot of stressful moments over the next weeks. And those prone to suffering anxiety will likely be punched with attacks. And those already living with depression might feel it more deeply. And those disposed to worrying …

If any or all of this threefold SAD affects you, I pray you are surrounded by compassionate and understanding family and friends.

And, if SAD does not affect you, please be kind and helpful to those who suffer.