Later on in the conversation



Posted on September 10, 2012 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Warning. This post is super long.

I have been in Matthew 6 for some weeks now. I'm reading the section that starts 

Matt 6:7 And when you pray, do not heap up phrases (multiply words, repeating the same ones over and over) as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their much speaking. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him (AMP).


Then Jesus gave them the so called "Lord's" Prayer. I skip down to 



25 Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? (AMP)

The thing I like about Matthew 6 is Jesus gives the antidote for this type of anxiety. He redirects us, reshaping our focus.

33 But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides (AMP).

King James might be clearer here.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Some translations read "goodness" instead of "righteousness."

We need many things, but as it says above, "Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."

This sort of abandonment of seeking things (not to mention all our lesser anxieties) is not about expecting someone else to pay for what you need, or being lazy. It's about an "attitude of caring," according to Charles Haun. He quoted Peter.

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (KJV).

Charles Haun preferred the King James in this case. It reads "care," rather than "cares." "Cast all your care..." It's not just a matter of telling God everything you're upset about. Your care, your "attitude of caring," can be rolled onto Him.

The Amplified backs up Charles Haun's reading of this verse:

7 Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.

"Once and for all."

After studying all this out, I found I needed shoes. I caught myself telling the Lord several times that I needed to buy a pair of new shoes. It seemed to me I was going against what I was learning about in Matthew 6. The reason I even bothered praying about buying shoes is I don't have very much energy at all. Sometimes I can only pull off a single outing in a week's time. So the trouble was getting to a place where I could get what I needed without wasting a lot of time. Grocery shopping at WalMart was out of the picture, because my dad told me he got a pair of shoes there and they ended up being garbage.

Turns out, only a few days later, my gf needed a gift for a wedding we were going to. We went into Kohl's, and while there, I found a pair of tennis shoes I was pleased with.

Not only that. I just started AT&T Internet service a couple weeks before that. I had problems with it, and they sent me a $100 gift card. So not only did an opportunity to shoe shop open up. I also already had what I needed financially to get them, and that during a pretty tight month.

May he continue to train us and teach us his ways.

God is love.

God sanctioned lies?

Posted on August 6, 2012 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (0)

The Lord takes lying seriously.

Lev 6:1-6 “...if he has found something lost and lies about it...he must return what he stole or extorted, ...He must make full compensation, add twenty percent to it, and hand it over to the owner on the same day he brings his Compensation-Offering. He must present to God as his Compensation-Offering a ram without any defect from the flock, assessed at the value of a Compensation-Offering. 7 "Thus the priest will make atonement for him before God and he's forgiven of any of the things that one does that bring guilt (MESS)."

Restoration. Justice. Maybe often it's not too late to make things right. In the biblical text the liar must get right both with God and man, by bringing to the man what he lied about or stole. Plus twenty percent more than he took. And then the ram is to make things right with God.

Prov 6:19 “Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies...(ibid.)

Rev21:27 “...all habitual liars forfeit eternal salvation (New Bible Dictionary).”

Lying as a habit carries serious consequences and is hated by God. The larger picture is that without Christ, we forfeit eternal salvation in any case. Regardless of what a "good person" we are. Excuse the detour. What I'm trying to make a case for is that God has strong feelings about lying.

Yet here it seems God doesn't just sanction a lie. He tells Samuel how to lie:

1 Sam 16:1-3 "God addressed Samuel: "So, how long are you going to mope over Saul? You know I've rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your flask with anointing oil and get going...2-3 "I can't do that," said Samuel. "Saul will hear about it and kill me." God said, "Take a heifer with you and announce, 'I've come to lead you in worship of God, with this heifer as a sacrifice.' ...I'll let you know what to do next. I'll point out the one you are to anoint (MESS) ."


The New Bible Dictionary says this passage “...does not justify the expedient lie. God merely suggested an ostensible reason for Samuel's visit to Bethlehem, and the prophet was under no obligation to divulge his real purpose (NBD).” Sounds like a lie to me, maybe a white lie, but a lie all the same.


Another puzzling verse that I can't find right now shows Jesus telling some people that he is not going to a certain festival, but then he does so privately. A lie? Of course Jesus never lied! We say. The verse is difficult no matter how we see it. I really wish I could find it, because with the last verse I quoted, it puts the question I wanted to ask.

If you know which verse I'm talking about, maybe you can put it in the comments.

My point is that God has strong feelings about lying. We could stop there, but I think it is necessary to look deeper.


You are a teacher

Posted on July 9, 2012 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Jesus didn't say, "Theology will set you free." He did not say, "Knowing the ways of God will set you free." Good as those things are, they aren't what Jesus put his finger on. He said the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).


Part of the theology package is truth. And certainly, knowing the ways of God is yet another way of knowing truth, since he himself is truth (John 14:6), and by natural extension, his ways would be truth, too. But Jesus singled out the truth, not just as part of the way we should worship (in spirit and in truth), but as that raw, transformative thing that we must learn to love (2 Thess. 2:10). Truth cuts at times. Maybe theology does too. Truth can make you angry.


Consider that we all teach, in some way. By our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, and by our words, we shape ourselves and those around us. This is, well, true. Whether we actively teach somewhere or not. Even the fool is an instructor.


There is a passage we think of as an admonition for teachers: they should rightly divide truth. When Paul said "rightly divide truth," just what did he mean? The Amplified Bible gives us this take on it:



        Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing - rightly handling and skillfully teaching - the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15 Amp.)"



Dividing the truth. I can't help but think of all the divisions in the Creation account (He divided the earth from the waters, day and night, light and shadow). Divisions abound in the Gospel (Matthew 10:34). Christ's cross divides - it runs counter to our "self." A beam splits the beam and you have an "x," a place of crossing. The cross needs to inform our handling of the Scripture "rightly" and teaching with skill.


The verse also says we present ourselves to God as having been "tested by trial." Our words that come out of those testings and from our activity in general return to us after we speak them (Ecc. 11:1). They come back and "ask" us if that particular truth is something we know in our heads. Or are they something we have walked out, experienced inwardly and outwardly? Are the things we know in our minds something alive and resident in our hearts and ways? For all of us, there will be a test. There will be a test today. Want to be study partners? If we get an "A" (or who knows, maybe even a "B" or a "C" or a "D," perhaps even an "F"), the truth can liberate us.


So that's it. Your challenge today: rightly handle and skillfully teach. Set people (and yourself!) free. Whether you have a pulpit ministry or not. God wants to use you to teach and bless others. God wants you, period. Give yourself over to the truth, and to him. Love the truth. Serve it. Let it fill your heart.

Jesus and John the Baptist

Posted on April 23, 2012 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

It's interesting that John seemed to live in the desert, but Jesus only visited it.

Paul was somehow able to say, “I die daily.” Paul went through a lot of things, but as far as we know, he never lived in the desert. Not in the sense John the Baptist did. Why is one life pattern so different from that of another? I have a feeling that if Jesus or Paul had tried living in the desert (Well hey, this is what's happening. John's doing it. It works for him, it should work for me), their results wouldn't have been as good as they were.


It is possible to be in a wilderness setting without physically being in one. Imagine Jesus going around, explaining things to his disciples, and yet in John 14 you have them totally oblivious to what was going on while he was comforting them. Must have been a hard three years for Jesus. Nobody got him (apart from Peter's “aha” moment), and worse than that, they fled, leaving him to face his most horrible hours alone. One of the Gospels has Christ looking at Peter when the cock crows. I wonder what Jesus felt at that moment. Maybe mixed in with what he felt, there was comfort in seeing one of his men at that point.


John4:1-3 “Jesus realized that the Pharisees were keeping count of the baptisms that he and John performed (although his disciples, not Jesus, did the actual baptizing). They had posted the score that Jesus was ahead, turning him and John into rivals in the eyes of the people. So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee (MESS).”


Jesus' reaction to this perceived competition was to withdraw from it. There's no hint this observation by the Pharisees was backed up by the facts. An alternative would have been for Jesus and John to join forces, baptize together. What got Jesus' disciples baptizing in the first place? I don't know.


In our own lives, we might strive against another person who, roughly, is doing the same thing we are: “I'll make our building bigger! We'll offer breakfast and baptism, two for the low low price of one! I'll show him how to really preach!” Jesus was the bigger than all that. Perhaps anything there was to be done, he could have done better than anyone else. Yet he was the one that withdrew.


It was him who heard the Father's voice intimately, and did the things the Father was doing.


Also interesting is Jesus and his disciples did not take up baptism again after they relocated. There was that stop in Samaria, but it seems they did no baptizing, and then on to Galilee. Once there, Jesus heals the son of a court official simply by saying it is so. Again,no baptizing.


Reading Through One of the Lists of Names

Posted on March 27, 2012 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

So I'm reading through Exodus 6:14, one of the name lists, and I'm counting how many kids Reuben had, because, frankly, I don't know how else to interact with lists of names. Charles Haun demonstrated in a name list found in Genesis 4:17f that the names, when translated, spoke of the time they were written in. But that hasn't worked for me the several times I tried it.


Then I see Kohath, under Levi's sons, and remember his son Korah rebelled against Moses in Numbers 16 (I had to look that one up).


Levi's life (137 years) is listed, the first age/date I've seen in this list.


It takes a turn after that, and you are reading about Kohath's sons, and some of the other sons of Levi. Then Moses and Aarons' origin from Amram and his wife Jochebed, Amram's aunt. I wonder if they had any of the disabilities that can come along with incest.


We then get a parenthetical insertion of a couple of Kohath's boys. Then back to Aaron. It tells who his kids were, then concludes the list saying “These are the heads of the fathers' house of the Levites by their families.


The next paragraph reminds us that this Moses and Aaron are the ones who were among the principal personalities in the escape from Egypt.


After that, the Harper Study Bible “new paragraphs” and picks back up with the narrative, saying Moses heard from God, refused the call, and then is told how Pharaoh’s heart will be hardened. It states God will be glorified in the Egyptians' eyes. Here, God does not get mad at Moses, nor does Moses mention he is unequal to the task. Just says that they went and spoke to Pharaoh.


Maybe you have something to add.




Posted on February 27, 2012 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Ecclesiastes 3:1 TO EVERYTHING there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven...(7) a time to keep silence and a time to speak,


I lean toward the first half of verse 7: “a time to keep silence and a time to speak.”


By this I mean I may say too little when it comes to witnessing. I don't know why.


My friend Bob Lake e-mailed me recently, with this thought: “The perfect has not yet come. So until then, SPEAK.”


But what about the quote that is often attributed to St. Francis? “Preach the Gospel; when necessary use words.” What's necessary is that we love each other, and act accordingly. But maybe the quote suggests something useful to me: Jesus can be shown without any words through our actions.


 I guess I figure if I've found something in Jesus, people will see it and express interest.


I've never felt comfortable with my approach, however, and I don't now, either.


Jesus as he is vs. the Jesus of my experience

Posted on February 21, 2012 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

There is a tension between focusing on Jesus and us “focusing”on him by shoveling all our need at him (Jesus be my guide, Jesus the one who makes me feel good again). I venture to guess the Psalmists did both.


How does he feel about that? It seems to me declarative statements run the risk of being so selfish that we're no longer moving toward Jesus anymore, but rather our version of him projected on him. (Which maybe we're doing all the time anyway.) Are we here to worship Jesus, or for some other reason?


And now the obligatory section where I try to balance what I'm saying so you'll listen to me without tuning me out. I know there are times when we need to identify Christ as the Lamp we walk by. Whatever we're going through, knowing he's in it with us helps us get through it. Does our personalizing him so much diminish who he is to us? That would be ironic.


I guess anytime you say to someone, “you're so great," it is coming from your perception of that person. They've helped us out, maybe, or nudged us see to something we didn't. We can appreciate the Lord ministering to someone that we couldn't have reached, and think kind thoughts about him because of it. Is it possible I could locate Christ where he belongs without reference to my own experiences with him? "My Lord and my God," Thomas said, in response to Christ showing him his scars. Christ showed Thomas himself as he was, and this moved Thomas to make this declaration. So now I'm saying it's up to God whether we locate him appropriately or not? Not sure I'd go that far. Things to think about.


Elisha and the arrows

Posted on February 14, 2012 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (0)


"Even when the direction of history is most uncertain, we can remain confident God is in control (4)."


2 Kings 13: 15-19 "And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows. And he took unto him bow and arrows. 16 And he said to the king of Israel, Put thine hand upon the bow. And he put his hand upon it: and Elisha put his hands upon the king's hands. 17 And he said, Open the window eastward. And he opened it. Then Elisha said, Shoot. And he shot. And he said, The arrow of the LORD's deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them. 18 And he said, Take the arrows. And he took them. And he said unto the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground. And he smote thrice, and stayed. 19 And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice.


One source suggests the king was thinking politically rather than with "Elisha's passionate anger against Yahweh's enemies." He wouldn't want to completely destroy Syria because their placement could act as a buffer between Israel and Assyria (1).


Why did the prophet get mad? Isn't it a little much to expect the king to smite the ground with the arrows when he didn't understand what he was doing? Beuttler suggests the problem is "Joash's lack of sufficient zeal and perseverance for obtaining the full promise of God (2)" Another source suggests the problem was the lack of faith on the king's part (3). I'm not sure how to read it.






(1) Bruce, F. F. (1986). The International Bible Commentary. Guideposts, New York.


(2) Beuttler, Walter H. (?). Notes on the Bible. Pinecrest, possibly? New York.


(3) Guthrie, D. et. al. (1970). The New Bible Commentary: Revised. Inter-Varsity Press. Leicester, England.


(4) Richards, Lawrence O. (2002). Bible Reader's Companion. Cook Communications Ministries. United States.

Hymns to me or God?

Posted on October 24, 2011 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

"There are three kinds of hymns:

1. Experience hymns center on self.

2. Prayer hymns are for something or someone.

3. Worship hymns are directed to Him."

(Golden Grain, p. 80)

I agree with John Wright Follette. I've been thinking about this lately. Especially the idea of experiencee hymns and the way they don't move toward God as much as they could. This kind of worship can also look like defining God according to my experience with Him: God has been faithful, the Lord is a man of war, the one who gives and takes away.

This is not all bad in itself. We need songs like these. Yet I see that I define God, myself and others according  to my experience with them. My brother is wittier than me, my dad knows a lot of history, my friend Glen takes an inordinate amount of time to make some purchases. These are all in reference to me, and are so because I am comparing their personalities to my contrasting qualities. Possibly I am comparing these people to other people who possess these traits.

So how do I get from this to Follette's third category? I don't know. 

May the Lord help me find my way to worship centered on Him.


Posted on October 18, 2011 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Serving others is like cleansing the palette - it prepares you for the next morsel God has for you.


We should serve with love rather than other motives.


Jesus' interview with Peter after his resurrection had to do with love and service:


"Peter, do you love me more than these?...feed my sheep."


Feeding sheep is practical. Almost sounds like John the baptist's preaching - don't cheat people on their taxes, be content with your wages, don't take things from people by force. "Peter," Jesus seems to say, "Just give the sheep food they can eat, food that will help them grow."


Jesus was practical. "Consider the lilies," he said. Consider them and change your thinking about fretting and being anxious. Serving in love may necessitate doing so without fretting, I don't know.


Perhaps the pinnacle of the mountain: Serving others shows our love for God, as well as men and women.



Jesus gave us commandments?

Posted on September 7, 2011 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

All Scripture citations are from the New American Standard except the ones that aren't. If it has "ye" in it, it might be King Jimmie.


John 14:21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."


Since when did Jesus didn't give any commandments? He starts this verse by saying these words pertain to those who "have" his commandments. How do we have them if He didn't give any?


Actually, he did. Or at least he called attention to some of them:


Mar 12:28 "One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' "The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."


The foremost commandment: love the Lord your God. The second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.


1 John 3:23 agrees:(


And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment (KJV).


2 John 1:6


And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.

He seems to be saying, "If you love me, you'll follow my commandments. You'll love the Lord and people."


"Trusting, loving, and obeying Jesus are all dependant on one another (David Guzick, "Study Guide for John 14")."


Let's return to the verse I started with:

John 14:21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."


Every time the word "love" is used, the Greek word here is "agape." Did Peter not have Jesus' commandments when Christ questioned him after they ate? He didn't agape Christ, Jesus made that much clear. Maybe there's hope for me yet.


"Disclose" here carries the idea of something being made manifest to the five senses. I didn't find too many translations or versions that bring this out, but here are a few:


The ESV and New King James agree on the word, "manifest:"


...will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him (NKJV)."


And the Amplified may confirm this:


...I [too] will love him and will show (reveal, manifest) Myself to him. [I will let Myself be clearly seen by him and make Myself real to him.]


He will "show" himself to this type of believer.

I've heard elsewhere that the sense of this verse is that Jesus will show himself in such a way that he is revealed to our five senses. Interesting, to say the least, huh? What if this is true?




In the distance I can see the storm cloud

Posted on August 15, 2011 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Today's topic: distance


Distance has to do with proximity. We think of distance as that aspect of writing that addresses how close the narrator is to the reader. Is the text warm and engaging, or more toward the kind of language you might read in a professional journal or newspaper? What does distance create?

 Don't worry, I'm getting to the Bible stuff. Keep your hat on.


Point of view comes in at this point. A first person narrator is ordinarily closer to us as readers than a third person narrator.


What about the subject? Do you think distance can also be used to speak about the narrator's closeness to those people and things he describes? When is it best that the distance between narrator and reader is so much that they are out of reach of each other?

Can you create distance without distance?


When two people are close, great things can happen. Love can emerge in this relationship that might not be expressed otherwise. In a more distant relationship, such as between a doctor and her patient, or a teacher and his pupils, we don't expect to be treated in a loving way. There is a certain amount of space in the relationship. Adoration is not a part of the equation.


Look at the start of Jonah:

1 The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." 3 But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD (NIV).


The word "me" is used, which ordinarily would create a closer feel because it's personal. But the text doesn't read that way. The passage lightly touches closeness with the word "me" but goes back to a  narrator's account.

But in chapter 2 Jonah prays, and part way in, switches from addressing us to addressing the Lord:


1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said: "In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. 3 You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. 4 I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.'

Here we see "you" and "me." Though for most of it, Jonah is not speaking directly to us. Yet the passage is much more personal than the first passage I quoted. Is it because he is describing his experiences? Certainly someone can tell an audience about what happened to her without being very personal about it.


I wondered if this would feel more distant in KJV, but for me it doesn't. I thought maybe the lofty language would impute distance, but it doesn't read that way to me.