While reading this morning, I looked up Psalm 139 in eSword. Normally, I read the ESV version but mistakenly clicked on the ERV (Easy to Read Version). What I read there moved me deeply:
“You formed the way I think and feel.” (Psalms 139:13a ERV)
Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, the message I received from the world is that being different, specifically being emotional, gentle, compassionate and artistic, etc., was contrary to expectations for a boy. To make sure I got the message, there were any number of emotional and physical bullies Continue reading
A phone call from a high school classmate launched me on a memory tour that led to a web search for the address where I grew up. Among the results was a real estate listing with 2 dozen photos. One by one I clicked through them looking for anything that remained of my childhood home. With the exception of the ceiling light fixture and knotty pine broom closet in the utility room, only the floor plan remained the same.
Mom and dad sold that house the fall of 1977 and so in the span of 38 years, everything my parents had built was scrapped and replaced by those who came after them.
Except for the grape vine they planted in the back yard.
Not only had the vine survived, it flourished. My reminiscing Continue reading
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. (32) Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (33) And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (34) Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (35) For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, (36) I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ (37) Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? (38) And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? (39) And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ (40) And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:31-40 ESV
Notice in Matthew 25:31-40 (above) there are 3 groups of people: “sheep”, “goats”, and “my brothers.” All too often when people read that passage, they see only 2 of the 3 groups, “sheep” and “goats”. When interpreting it, readers tend to assume that the “sheep” and “my brothers” are one in the same. If that’s correct, then for all practical purposes Jesus is commending the “sheep” for serving themselves, feeding themselves, clothing themselves, visiting themselves, etc.
Let’s begin by looking at the word “nations”; the Greek word is ‘ethnos’ and Strong’s dictionary defines it “a race (as of the same habit), that is, a tribe; specifically a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually by implication pagan): – gentile, heathen, nation, people.” Continue reading
There is a notion among believers that we must all walk arm-in-arm, agreeing on all things together, while making our way to the kingdom. Church sign boards and Sunday morning bulletins often boast slogans such as “come, let us grow together.” I’ve often heard proponents of line-dancing into the kingdom cite 2 scriptures in support of that notion:
Can two walk together unless they are agreed? (Amos 3:3 MKJV)
And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. (Acts 17:11 NLT)
The way I see it, two people walking together really only need to agree which path to take, how fast to walk, when and how long to stop and rest. There is no need to agree with everything another person believes in order to walk together for a time. There can be agreement in simply marveling at the beauty of God’s creation while walking together.
With regard to searching the scriptures together, during the time of Paul the only scriptures available were from the Old Testament. Bibles were not sold in book stores nor were printed scriptures commonly available. The village rabbi would have possessed a set of handwritten scrolls that were shared in the synagogue. Continue reading
And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:23-25 ESV)
Jesus often described the Father’s work in creation through the metaphor of planting seed, growing grain and fruit, and harvest. In John 12:24, Jesus uses the seed metaphor to describe His own death and resurrection and in it, reveals a process repeated throughout all of creation.
The seed is initially a living thing, something pure, undefiled and made in the image of the plant it came from, though obviously not yet revealed while still in seed form. The seed separates from its host and falls to the earth and dies, Continue reading
I was anxiously making my way down the side of a mountain on foot with another man who seemed to be a mixture of my earthly and spiritual fathers. The mountain we were descending from was desert like, covered with rock, cactus and stumps. Not a single tree remained on the mountain, while the valley below was lush and inviting with green forest and clear streams. Though I could not see them from the rocky trail, I knew the valley to be filled with people, shelter, food, fellowship, etc. Conversely, the mountain I recognized as “snake country” (if I’ve never mentioned, I hate snakes!) Despite my best efforts to convince my “father” to continue on to the valley, which we could have reached by nightfall, he decided instead to camp out on the mountain for the night. We unrolled our sleeping bags, even while I was objecting to it and the danger posed by snakes. My “father” laid out his sleeping bag next to an old rotting stump, from which a vine-like fern was growing and he began to eat the fern, which I thought was most unappetizing. Finally in response to my concerns about snakes, my “father” pulled a full size wall calendar from his pack and showed it to me. In the dream, I was aware it was the month of December, and the calendar was marked “snakes in hibernation” beginning in November. Upon seeing the calendar, I thought to myself “it’s the cold that sends them into hibernation but it’s unseasonably warm!” Consequently, I believed the signs of the times more so than the calendar. As we settled into our sleeping bags with our heads pointed up hill, I did seem to get over my concerns about snakes. We went to sleep.
End of dream.
The dream confused me for several reasons. Continue reading
It was 22 years ago I had a Job-like experience, losing everything that mattered to me. For several months, I entertained dark thoughts for myself, while the Lord contended for my life and gave me hope through His comforting presence and scripture. I don’t remember how it got started, but daily I read the Psalms, Proverbs and the New Testament, writing my favorite scriptures on 3×5 cards. Within months, the stack of them grew to several inches thick and I carried them rubber-banded together in my shirt pocket for reading as often as I felt discouraged.
This week while unpacking the last of the boxes from our cross-country move, I came across the cards and read them for the first time in years. One in particular left me in tears:
“Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house …” (Psalm 128:3)
God had fulfilled His promise to me where like Job, Continue reading