Tag Archives: Jesus

A New Look at an Old Book: Job 14-16


I had breakfast with a friend this morning. We had planned to meet with another woman and make it a girls’ day out, but plans changed and we were able to dine alone. We met at a quaint little coffee shop in our hometown and placed our orders. We sat down at a table littered with puzzle pieces, and my friend was immediately entangled in the process of placing the tiny mosaics in order to reconstruct a photograph of a beautiful, blue victorian home. While she worked, we ate and talked. The conversation was pleasant. We discussed the minutae of our lives and exchanged a few laughs.

Then I did it.

I had wanted to know for awhile, but I never felt the time was right to ask. But today, with just the two of us, and she occupied with a task for her hands, I asked her about Chelsea.

Chelsea

Chelsea is her beautiful, perpetually-just-shy-of-sixteen-years-old daughter. During a routine trip to a neighboring city, my friend and two of her three children were involved in a motor vehicle accident, and Chelsea was tragically killed. As I listened to the painful recounting of that fateful day three years ago, I was struck silent. I soaked in the scenery and the emotions as Bev carefully and tearfully walked me through her memories of that day. After sharing, she pondered aloud the question that all of us have asked at one point or another – “Why would God take HER when there are so many bad people in the world?”

In this passage of scripture, Job is asking the same thing. Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Why is there pain and suffering for believers? Why is it that tragedy strikes? I’ve been contemplative since our meeting this morning. My friend is quite a happy person in light of her unbelievably difficult reality. I’m not sure I could function, much less be productive, positive and pleasant.  I am not a parent, but I am a doting aunt and just the thought of losing one of my neices or nephews brings me to a very dark place.

As I thought about today’s reading, I marvelled at the tenacity of Job, but I am also moved by the life of this woman, my friend, who shared her heart with me today. As I sit here, I am listening to the song “Breath of Heaven” and I am reminded of another loss.  In the blockbuster movie, The Passion of the Christ, the scene that breaks my heart most, is the point where Mary watches her son walking down the road, heavy with the cross of his crucifixion on his shoulders. As he passes, virtually unrecognizable, he falls and she remembers Jesus as a happy, vibrant toddler running, laughing and falling as a child.  She didn’t see the Savior of the human race – she saw her baby, and He was hurting – and she was powerless.

That’s how my friend felt – that’s how Job felt – and that’s how God must have felt when He watched His son suffer and die.  When I read these scriptures, I am made sad at the pain that people have to suffer.  At the same time, I am selfishly thankful that I have not had to endure that type of pain.  I am also aware that we are not the only ones who suffer.  God himself suffered.

I don’t know why God lets bad things happen to good people, but I find comfort in the knowledge that He knows what that kind of loss feels like.  I find grace in the words of my friend, who while hurting can still bless God and look to Him as her source of strength and hope.  I am comforted in knowing that the tears we weep for the losses we endure on this side of the veil are not shed alone.  God himself weeps with us.  He is our Champion and Friend.  He is just as sad about our suffering as we are, maybe moreso.

Our breakfast turned into lunch.  We shared and cried together.  I was able to see a part of my friend’s heart that was broken and vulnerable, and in sharing about her loss – we gained.  We added to our friendship.  We increased the memory of a very special girl whose life positively impacted more than 1,000 people.  We grew in understanding of the depths of love.

Maybe that’s the real lesson here.  Maybe the reason we experience loss is to gain. . .

  • understanding
  • empathy
  • patience
  • love

Thank you for sharing your life with me.  I have been blessed.

A New Look at an Old Book: Genesis 4-8


As I read through this section of the scripture, I find that rather than answers I am bombarded with questions. Opportunities to know more about the heart of God because of the things I do not understand. I am thankful that after 32 years in relationship with Him, I am still learning and challenged by the Lord.

Genesis 4:3

Time Passed. So much left unsaid here. What happened during that time?

Why did God not like Cain and his offering? What had transpired to result in such a negative reaction?
Also – I’m troubled by verse 7. This seems counterintuitive to what we know about God. These are the scriptures that are difficult to reconcile with a loving Creator.

Obviously, it was important to Cain and Abel to be pleasing to God. It’s clear from this very brief encounter that the brothers had a personal daily knowledge of God and were well acquainted with him in a way that we cannot understand.

Why does it have to be an “either/or” situation here? Why weren’t both offerings pleasing to God? There is so much here that goes unspoken and causes me difficulty.

Genesis 4:14-15

Is this the precursor to eternal separation from God – or Hell? Cain complains because he will never again face God. Was there any prior knowledge that taking a life would result in this drastic separation? God puts a mark on Cain…what was the mark? How would people know that it was the mark of God?

Genesis 4:26ff

Cain, even though separated from God and banished from His presence, raises his child to be a lover and worshiper of God. Again – so much that goes unsaid.

Genesis 5:3

Adam has a son who is like him in every way. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Adam was God’s first creation and proclaimed Good – but then he was cast out of the garden and made to toil and suffer. Hmmm. I don’t know what to make of that.

Genesis 5:1-32

Why does God spend so much time telling us about the geneology of this people? There is nothing remarkable about their lives other than their names, the age they are when they have children and the age they die. Man, I hope that God has more to say about my life than that!

Genesis 6

This part of the story has always been a little disturbing and seemingly out of place. What is a son of God? I always have heard that it means an angel or a supernatural being (according to the Contemporary English Version of the Bible), but aren’t we also referred to as sons of God? What is the purpose of this brief, seemingly unrelated tidbit of information? This definitely warrants more research!

I think more than anything else in reading this particular selection of scripture, I am moved by the lack of information rather than the content. There is so much here that is left unsaid! Kind of like the 21 years of Jesus’ life that we know nothing about. Makes me wonder what else there is to know. We go from the imagery of God being loving, protective, creative and physically present to Him being filled with regret at the making of humanity! But there’s little to explain the reason for His desire to erase His creation.

Genesis 4:3, Genesis 4:14-15, Genesis 4:26, Genesis 5:1-32, Genesis 6:1-22, Genesis 7:1-24 and Genesis 8:1-22

A New Look at an Old Book – Genesis 1-3


This year I have decided to go through the Bible in a Chronological pattern.  I must shamefully admit that I have never succeeded in following through on one of these reading plans.  I found this great application on my Blackberry phone, and I was so impressed, I just had to share it.  They have a website, too.  As always – IF IT’S FREE, IT’S FOR ME!  So I wanted to share what I found and encourage you to start the journey, too.  There are more than 20 reading plans and several different options for time, and every version of the Bible imaginable to read from!  There is a place to journal as you go through the reading and then if you would like to participate in the community aspect, they have a place for that, too!  Truly, one of the best websites I have ever come across.  I hope to find some of you there!

Usually when I read the Bible, I have a tendency to let my research curiosity take over and I end up cross referencing, back tracking, getting exegetical and otherwise just chasing down red herrings.  I enjoy that!  I learn so much that way, but I wanted to approach the scriptures a little differently this time.  I want to simply stay in the moment.  My plan is to simply document the thoughts and questions that occur to me during the course of the reading.  Not to look for hidden meanings and answers, but simply to bask in the Word of God and to let it wash over me and envelope me completely.  As such, there may or may not be any flow to the thoughts.  I love to hear what scripture says to other people, so I am hoping that these entries will spark a dialogue with others.

And so the journey begins.  I have decided to use The Message as my version of choice for this trip.  I like the artistry of the language and I am looking forward to seeing new things as I travel down this familiar, well-travelled road.  Let’s go!

Genesis 1:2

First thing: The language of the Message is so colorful. I love the expression that the Earth was a soup of nothingness! Immediately followed by “God’s Spirit brooded like a bird…” What does that mean? The dictionary says: “4. (of a bird) to warm, protect, or cover (young) with the wings or body.” The imagery there is comforting. I can imagine the Lord looking down over the vastness with love, and covering the yet unformed earth in a protective embrace. He had not yet made us, but His love and attention was already focused and protective.  Something really settles into my spirit about the concept of “covering.”  The imagery elicited, from a bird protecting it’s nest, to God covering Moses with his hand, to the mother at Pompei who used her body to cover her child.  The idea is amazing – protective, nurturing, comforting, peaceful.

Genesis 1:27

Day Six in the creation landscape – God’s work so far has been like a painting. At first, broad strokes to cover great amounts of canvas, setting the stage for the finer work. With each passing creative expression, the work becomes more detailed and fine. The penultimate expression of God’s handiwork is revealed on this day. He created humans. He made us godlike! I wonder why He would do this? The way He created us, we REFLECT His nature. We are like the moon – we have no light source of our own, but we appear to shine because we mirror the light of the sun.

photographed by Karen J. Romine

We just had a beautiful natural phenomenon occur over New Years‘ festivities. Our eyes were directed heavenward to behold the wonder that is a Blue Moon, or the second full moon in a month. It’s a fairly rare occurrence, made to seem even more important because it coincided with the beginning of a new year. It was easy to romanticize and marvel at the moon. I took several pictures and had my fair share of Lunar Lookiloo-itude. It was truly a beautiful sight to behold. The way that the glow illuminated the night sky was truly breathtaking. I found myself captivated by the sight of it, marveling at it’s magnificence. But the truth is, the moon has no power of it’s own. The ethereal qualities that we attribute to her are not her own. She is merely a mirror. She is so perfectly suited to reflect the true source of light – the sun, that sometimes we place credit where none is due. That’s what we are supposed to be. A vehicle of reflection – we are mirrors. We shine back the true source of light – the Son. Because the light is so beautiful, even in reflection, sometimes we give credit where none is due. Without the warming beams of the sun’s glow, the moon is just a rock. Without the loving glow of the Son’s touch, we humans are just animals. It is the REFLECTIVE qualities of being created godlike that make us so beautiful to behold.

Genesis 2:3

God’s Ultimate act of creation: a day of rest. I think that just as we are sometimes overly impressed with the majesty of the moon, we are equally enamoured with our own existence. However, if we continue with the analogy of a painting, the final act is knowing when to stop. The best artists know when to step back from their creation and say – It is finished.  They put down the paintbrush, then pause for a moment and just soak it in. That is the ultimate act of creation. God, ever the consummate artist, steps back from His creation and says – It’s done. It’s complete. He takes a step back, and breathes a sigh of satisfaction and simply takes in His handiwork. He allows Himself to enjoy what He’s just made. Oh, would that we would reflect that attribute of our Creator! This is the ultimate expression of creation because it allows us to enjoy the created. To revel in the completion of a task. To recuperate and recover from the process of doing. In addition to polishing up my reflective qualities, this is an attitude I long to embrace in the new year!

Genesis 2:23

This season in my life, I have been reawakened to my desire to be partnered with a man. I don’t know what it is about Christians in particular that they feel the need to devalue or debase any desires that we have. As if desiring something is inherently bad. I have fallen into that mindset myself to a degree and often have chastised myself for wanting to be married. However this time through the scriptures, I am seeing that there is cause for the feelings I have experienced and am experiencing. Simply in verse 23. One word. Man says – FINALLY! Oh the implications and power in that one word! Here is a creation, situated in a perfect existence. Newly made, fresh off the line so to speak, all his parts are still shiny and new, but when he is presented with woman as a companion – man says “Finally!!” There is something within us that God created to desire fellowship with each other on an intimate level. So why is it that when we express that same feeling of anticipation, our “well-meaning” brothers and sisters imply (or some come right out and say) that we are being somehow less. That we should be content in our situation. That’s not the way I’m reading this.

Bear with me for the following metaphor – back when I was a child, we had thermometers with mercury in them. Invariably one would break and the silvery substance would spill out and puddle together. Curiosity would always overtake me, and I would collect the spilled contents into my hand. The mercury would bead up, and each little ball was perfect in it’s own right. But once two of the tiny rounds came into proximity of each other, there was an undeniable attraction that drew them into each other to reform into a new, larger, but still perfectly formed ball. There was no distinction between the old droplets and the new drop. They were capable of existing perfectly on their own, but given the opportunity, they were more suited to coalesce. The fact that one property of mercury is to desire to come together does not hinder it’s effectiveness. It doesn’t make it a weaker element. In fact, it is one of the traits of mercury that makes it unique. We are that way. We are made of the same stuff, and our natural inclination – a byproduct of our creation – is to be drawn to each other in an attempt to commingle or to cleave as the KJV calls it. This is not good or bad. It just is.

Genesis 3:16

Obviously – my mind is focused on this subject, because what I feel the Lord revealing to me is primarily about the same subject matter. Chapter 3, verse 16 – the last line in the verse speaks volumes to the classic struggle between male and female. We want to please our husbands, and the the husbands will want to use that to rule over us. No wonder we can’t understand each other. It’s a product of the fall. I wonder if a couple who have been saved by grace can then go back and pray against the consequences of that first sin? Is it possible to reverse that curse? Hmmm. I wonder.

God is Love


Author’s Note:  I recently served on a jail ministry weekend called Residents Encounter Christ.  During that time, I led music for a group of male residents at the Sumter County Jail.  I was also responsible for one of the 13 20-minute “talks” that took place over the course of the weekend.  My topic was “God is Love.”  The following is that talk.  The content is not intended for children and may be difficult to read.  These are my memories and as such are intensely personal and subjective.

What is sweeter than love? Can you think of anything? What does that word, LOVE, even mean? What do you think about when you hear it? I don’t know about you, but when I think about love, my thoughts aren’t always sweet. For me, the idea of love has always been something that seemed unlikely or unattainable. The first love that any of us experience comes from our parents.

When my mom was a young girl, she grew up in a children’s home. Her mom was an alcoholic and married to a man who loved men. My mom and my Uncle, the youngest of the four children, were taken away and placed in the children’s home. After many years of horror and solitude in the system, she lived with her older sister and her sexual predator-former step-father-turned abusive husband. She hadn’t seen love in her lifetime, not really. She only knew neglect and secrets and shame. She sought escape and found it in the arms of a much older, recently divorced man.

After a short period of time, my mom learned she was pregnant at the age of 17. She was not in love, she didn’t know what love was, but she knew she didn’t have it. It was 1964, and the “right” thing to do was to marry, so five-months ripe with new life, she said “I do” in the back of a gas station. This was not the stuff of romance novels or fairy tales. On her wedding day, she didn’t feel love, she felt trapped. She tells me that she cried that day. Not tears of joy, but tears of resignation. What a sad way to start a new life! A short four months later, I was born and quickly followed by two more children in as many years. She didn’t have an example of what love was, so how could she love us? She did the best she knew, and it was worlds better than what she experienced. However the relationship that began poorly only got more strained as the years progressed.

My father was an alcoholic who was verbally abusive and after five years, my parents separated only to reunite when my mother became pregnant with their fourth child. Saying that my home life was volatile would be like saying the Titanic was just a boat. This was my introduction to love: Fighting, screaming, drunken rages, and physical beatings with a few moments of happiness and peace on the rare occasion. Oddly enough, I felt loved, but I also felt that it could just as easily go away – I felt that love had conditions – if you’re good, I’ll love you, If you’re not – I won’t.

As I got older, I learned about romantic love from watching TV and movies and reading books. Nothing I saw in my life was like what I saw or read. What I experienced was sexual abuse and perversion at the hands of babysitters, school mates and even family members. I felt the first flutters of romantic love with when I met my babysitter’s youngest son who was my age. It was sweet and innocent. But to add to the confusion, my sisters and I were constantly bombarded by sexual deviance while we were in their care. At the age of four I was sexually molested by the babysitter’s 18 year old son. So my earliest memories of love are wound up in fear and shame.

When my body changed early, the attention I got from my classmates and from older boys was terrifying to me. At a time in my life when I should have felt excited and exhilarated by attention from the opposite sex, I was paralyzed. The wolf whistles and flirting didn’t feel innocent to me – it seemed menacing because it brought back feelings of fear from my past. What I learned about love between a man and a woman was confusing. I wanted what I saw on TV, but what I saw in my life and in my house was ugly and perverse. So I turned to another kind of love.

I loved food. I learned to use food as a shield, literally. I locked away the body that caused so much trouble to me. I loved music. I turned to music to escape the reality of a troubled home life. I loved church for the same reason. It was an escape. But the escape was only temporary. The food that had served so well to protect me from the unwanted advances of creepy guys eventually became a prison. The music that I loved always ended. And the escape I found in church was short lived, because sooner or later I had to go home. Sooner or later, the concert was over. Sooner or later, I wanted to be attractive and have a guy’s attention. All the types of love I knew were similar in one way – they were all TEMPORARY.

UNTIL

When I was 12, I learned about a different kind of love. Not the love between a parent and child, not the love between a man and a woman, and not the love of a thing. What I learned about was an emotion that had no limits, no boundaries and no conditions. I learned about the love that God had for me, a sexually abused, overweight, dysfunctional kid. Even though I had been going to church for six years, I still didn’t know the whole story. I went to a retreat, kind of like you are on this weekend. While there, I heard about the ultimate example of love.

I learned that I had done things that made God unhappy. I was what the church people called a sinner. You see, even though I had been on the receiving end of some really bad behavior, I had been hateful and I had wished that my mom would die. That was a sin. I learned that sin has a price. When you sin, you earn separation from God. You earn death. So far, I was familiar with this. It sounded like conditions again. But this is where things really turned around because the story didn’t stop there. In my world, that would be the end, but with God, He loved me so much that even though I had done something wrong, He wanted to give me a gift . . . the gift of a life with Him. God loved me so much that while I was in the middle of my worst behavior, God sent his Son to pay what I owed.

Allow me to share a story from my life. I was driving one day when I noticed that I needed gas. I pulled into a convenience store and filled up my tank. When I went to pay, my debit card wouldn’t work. I didn’t have any cash. I didn’t have a checkbook. I had no way to pay for the gas that was in my tank. I was in trouble. Out of nowhere, this woman came up and said, “I’ll pay for it.” I didn’t know her. I had never seen her before or since. She didn’t know me, she didn’t get any gas, she had no reason to do what she did. But she paid what I owed and she didn’t want anything in return. That is Love. To me, that was huge, but what God did for us is so much bigger than that. He gave his LIFE!! Let me summarize a section from the Bible in 1John 4:7-11, 16
Love comes from God. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. 11My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other.
God is love – 1John 4:16 – We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

All of this begs the questions:
• What is your idea of God?
When I was a kid, I thought about God as some old guy with long white hair and a flowing beard sitting up in the clouds. He wasn’t really REAL. He might as well have been Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, but more sinister. I thought He was judgmental and out of reach. I thought I had to DO something or BE someone other than what I was. I wasn’t good enough. That’s what I learned growing up in my house. I learned that if I wanted to be loved, I had better toe the line! But what I found out about God is that He doesn’t love like that. He loves me completely, not because of something I do or don’t do. In fact, I learned that even when I was in the middle of doing the worst things in my life, God loved me so much he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for me. He sent His son, Jesus, to show me just how much He loves me.

• Is Christ worth encountering?
Yes! When you really get to know who God is and what Jesus did for you, you won’t see Him as some far away, untouchable, cloud-potato. He’ll be real and relevant to you. And you’ll finally know what it means to love and to BE loved.

• When I was growing up, I was always in fear that I was going to get in trouble. I was painfully aware that if I did something my parents didn’t like, I was gonna get it. I was going to be spanked or yelled at or I would have something taken away, or the worst was that I would feel that I had let them down. I wanted to please my parents, but the bar for pleasing them was always moving. My first thoughts about God were tangled up in that same idea. I thought He was like a policeman who was setting a trap for me, and just waiting for me to mess up so he could lower the boom. But that’s not who God is.

• God wants us to be real with Him. He desires a relationship with us. That sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. In the book of Acts, Paul is talking to some people in Athens and says it this way:

22 “. . . I see that you are very religious. 23 I was walking along and I saw all your churches, and one of your altars had this saying carved into it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ Well, this God, the One you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.
24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and he doesn’t need humans to serve him—for he has no needs. He is the one who gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need.
27 “His wants us to look for Him. He wants us to feel our way toward him and find him—even though he is not far from any one of us. 28 He’s the one who gives us life and movement and our very breath! We wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Him! Since we are God’s children, we must not think that he is like an idol made out of gold or silver or stone. He isn’t like anything that humans have thought up and made.

The love that I experience from God is real. I may not be able to touch Him, but I can feel the love that He gives me. At the age of 12, I finally saw that God wanted to give me a gift that I didn’t deserve, and I accepted it. I took Him at his word, and I believed that He meant what He said. Since then, I feel accepted. I am finally comfortable in my own skin. God uses His words through the Bible to tell me how special I am to Him and how much He loves me. He uses other believers to show me His love and compassion. He knows just what I need to feel loved.

He knows just what YOU need to feel loved. Every one of us is unique and special in God’s eyes. He knows that I need to hear that I’m needed and useful, so He puts people in my life who tell me just that. He’ll do that for you, too.

• As you grow closer to God, what you know about Him changes. Just like somebody that you’ve known for a long time, you learn more about them, and our knowledge of God is always unfolding and growing. When I was younger, I thought about God like the Father figure that I didn’t have at home. I couldn’t talk to my dad, but I told God everything. I was afraid of my father, but I always felt safe with God. When I needed something, I couldn’t go to my daddy for help, but I knew that God would take care of me. As an adult, and as a woman, my relationship with God has changed. I don’t see Him as a Father as much anymore. The Bible describes the relationship between God and His people in terms of a marriage. And that’s more what I have now with God. We have a much more intimate relationship that only comes from years of knowing each other. I’m not always going to Him and asking for things, now I’m totally enamored. It’s a more mature love. He’s not the old guy in the clouds anymore, out of reach, out of touch and out of sync. He is real and close, concerned and caring.

• The way to know God is through Christ. Luke 10:22 – My Father has given me everything, and he is the only one who knows the Son. The only one who really knows the Father is the Son. But the Son wants to tell others about the Father, so that they can know him too.
The Love that God gives isn’t like human love. Human love is selfish and jealous, but when you know what it’s like to be loved by God, you will want to share it with others. Jesus said it best with a story about loving your neighbor.

Luke 10:25-37 (The Message)
Defining “Neighbor”
25Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”
26He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”
27He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
28″Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”
29Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”
30-32Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest (or we could call him a preacher) was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man (let’s call him a church member) showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
33-35″A Samaritan traveling the road came on him (this guy is like a tatted up biker dude). When the biker dude saw how bad off the guy got beat down, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey (er, Harley), led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’
36″What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?” 37″The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded. Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

This isn’t a one-time deal. Another time in the Bible we see that God showed he Loved people by feeding them when they were hungry. He saw what they needed and He gave it to them, all four thousand of them!

Mark 8:1-9 (The Message)
1-3 (Jesus) found himself with a hungry crowd on his hands. He called his disciples together and said, “This crowd is breaking my heart. They have stuck with me for three days, and now they have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they’ll faint along the way—some of them have come a long distance.”
4His disciples responded, “What do you expect us to do about it? Buy food out here in the desert?”
5He asked, “How much bread do you have?”
“Seven loaves,” they said.
6-10So Jesus told the crowd to sit down on the ground. After giving thanks, he took the seven bread loaves, broke them into pieces, and gave them to his disciples so they could hand them out to the crowd. They also had a few fish. He pronounced a blessing over the fish and told his disciples to hand them out as well. The crowd ate its fill. Seven sacks of leftovers were collected. There were well over four thousand at the meal. Then he sent them home. He himself went straight to the boat with his disciples and set out for Dalmanoutha.

So now, what? What do we do with all this new knowledge? How are we supposed to respond?
Matthew 7:7-8 (The Message)
7-11″Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?

• Turn toward God in prayer and love. We just learned about prayer from the speaker before me. Praying to God is just like talking to your buddy. You don’t need any special skills or tools. Just talk to Him. Tell Him what you need. Tell Him what you want. Tell Him what you’re thinking and feeling. And every once in a while, be quiet and let Him talk to you.

• Don’t isolate yourself. God put us on this earth surrounded by other people. That is no accident. We were created to be social. Get with other people who know and love God and lean on each other for support.

• And finally, share what you’ve learned. Just like that lady did with me at the Gas Station. She saw I had I need that I couldn’t take care of on my own. She stepped in and shared with me. That is the heart of the story.

The Most Important Commandment Matthew 22:34-40
34After Jesus had made the Sadducees look foolish, the Pharisees heard about it and got together. 35One of them was an expert in the Jewish Law. So he tried to test Jesus by asking, 36″Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. 38This is the first and most important commandment. 39The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” 40All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets [a] are based on these two commandments.

The ideas I had about love were anything but sweet for a long time. Even though I first learned about God’s love at the age of 12, I learn more every day. With each year that passes, I have more opportunity to experience the depth of the love that God has for me and for others. The reason I’m here is share what I’ve got with you. This weekend, I hope that you will embrace the love that God has for you. That you will take Him at His word and trust Him. The scars from your past and from my past don’t magically disappear. One of the best parts of knowing that God is Love is what it does to other areas of your life. The ideas I had about love as a child have been transformed and so have the relationships of my past. That’s one of the side effects of loving and being loved by God. I still have rough times – I still struggle with intimacy and with food. You will struggle, too. The Love of God is always bigger than we can comprehend and takes a lifetime to learn. I know it’s not always easy, but it is ALWAYS worth it.

Wake up Call


I’ve just joined a new group on Facebook in which we are reading through the New Testament in three months.  Today’s reading was Matthew 8-10.  Lately, I’ve taken to reading “The Message,” one of the newer versions of the BibleGod has really used it to open my eyes to more of Him and His truths.  For those of you that are purists, you probably will not appreciate the simplicity of language that this paraphrase utilizes, but I have found it refreshing to have another “voice” in which to hear God.  When I read these old, familiar verses in this new manner, I find that I have more questions.  Where I used to hear a lulling comfort in the words, I now have a stirring of ideas and queries that need to be sated.

I found the first part of today’s reading to be a little disturbing.  Maybe it sounds strange to say that, but I found it troubling to see the juxtaposition of the compassion Jesus displayed to all those who were hurting and in need of healing in verses 8:1-18 to the curtness and, well, crabby-ness when dealing with the religious scholar, the mourner and his own disciples in the boat in the remaining verses of the same chapter.  What’s even stranger is that I found the exchange to be somehow comforting to me because I could more easily see the humanity of Christ in these conversations.  This passage of scripture is rife with emotional charge.  I can identify with that, and it makes me love Jesus even more to know that we have that in common.

Chapter 10 jumped off the page, in particular. Christ is telling his disciples how to go about the business of, well, discipling.  He tells them they don’t have to fulfill some grandiose vision of ministry.  They don’t have to go to some far-off land, they don’t have to have some huge fund-raising campaign, they don’t have to look, act or be anything but who they are!  Man!  This is a lesson our church needs to learn today!  I know I did.

Let me share with you how these words read in The Message (my own emphasis added):

“5-8 Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers.  And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy.  Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood.  Tell them that the kingdom is here.  Bring health to the sick.  Raise the dead.  TOUCH THE UNTOUCHABLES.  Kick out the demons.  You have been treated generously, so LIVE generously.  9-10″Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start.  You don’t need a lot of equipment.  YOU ARE THE EQUIPMENT, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day.  Travel light.  11″When you enter a town or village, don’t insist on staying in a luxury inn.  Get a modest place with some modest people, and BE CONTENT there until you leave.

If you don’t believe this is something Christianity struggles with, just turn on the television and turn to ANY religious channel.  With few exceptions, you will see the opposite of what you have just read!  Reading the next few verses, you will see even further that we are MISSING THE BOAT when it comes to what Christ expects of his disciples.  I just want to pick out a few mandates in bullet point:

  • Be gentle in your conversation.
  • Don’t make a scene.
  • Stay alert.
  • Don’t call attention to yourselves.
  • Don’t be naive.
  • Others will smear your reputation — Don’t be upset
  • Don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it.

The part that struck me the most was in verses 21-23, nestled right in the middle of the passage, a truth so quick and so simple that I think we just gloss over it:

“There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate!  But don’t quit.  Don’t cave in.  It is all well worth it in the end.”

We have a lot of hate in this world.  In the church we hate and then we paste a pretty label on it and call it “righteous indignation” or attribute our nastiness to our Christianity.  In the world we hate each other because we look differently, act differently, smell differently, believe differently.  I don’t want to be the type of “Christian” I see on TV.  I want to be the type of person that Christ describes in today’s reading…content, satisfied, pleasant, non-confrontational, peaceful, modest, alert, and trusting.  I have a long way to go.  What about you?