Named

Melting pot people walking on zebra crossing and traffic jam on 7th avenue in Manhattan before sunset - Crowded streets of New York City during rush hour in urban business area

 

Today’s Readings: Exodus 32, John 11, Proverbs 8, Ephesians 1

As I sit down to write tonight I’m filled with joy and contentment. I’m 35 today. I slept in just a little, had some favorite foods, received gifts from my husband and children, went to church and then celebrated with my small group. As I reflect on the day, the thing that sticks with me is my Facebook feed. Ordinarily, I would have lots to say about the false idol that is Facebook but today I feel differently. Today, 122 people took the time to call me by name. One hundred and twenty two people wrote genuine, kind, heartfelt messages to me. Throughout the day I read and re-read my bible passages for the journal and in between I would read some of the new Facebook messages coming in. I realized tonight that what is most significant about these messages is that each of those people called me by name.

In John 11 we learn that Jesus’ good friend Lazarus is very ill. John is careful to tell us that Jesus stayed for 2 extra days despite the mounting risk he faces for his preaching in Judea. Mary and Martha are rather desperate. They tell Jesus that “he whom you love” is ill. Jesus replies by saying:

 “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” John 11:4

This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God. Hello. Hello. I’ve been transporting myself to this moment in time all week. What Jesus says here is so important. I’ve challenged myself to write down at least two things each day that I believe is an “illness” in my life. An illness that I may feel is for the purpose of my own suffering. An illness that I believe is for the purpose of an end or a death. Then I ask myself, “how is this circumstance or situation for the glory of God.” Guess what…there’s been an answer every time. If I am silent and wait, I get the answer.

What happens next is the real meat and potatoes of the story. After learning that Lazarus has been dead for four days, Jesus goes to the tomb and calls him by name. He says,

“Lazarus come out” John 11:43

The irony here of course is that as Jesus gives life through the act of giving up his own. In fact, by performing this miracle the plot to kill Jesus is set in motion by his enemies. Jesus knows that the time is drawing near. He hastened his own death by calling his beloved Lazarus by name. Is he calling me today? As Easter approaches am I present in this Lazarus moment, am I listening for the sound of my very own name?

Later in today’s readings Paul writes to the Ephesians,

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:11-14

 There it is! The post-resurrection testimony from Paul about the true inheritance we have as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice. He tells us right here in this scripture that we are his chosen ones, he has named us on the biggest Facebook wall of all time. We have been predestined for his love and will inherit our forever with him. Here is the promise that each and every one of us is special, is unique, is intimately known by Him. By his action we are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul goes on to write to the Ephesians,

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.” Ephesians 1:16-18

 Father,

Bring our hearts close to yours this week. Give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of you. Don’t let the spirit of eggs and chocolate and rabbits distract us from your voice calling us by name. Give us hope in the daily situations that we feel are insurmountable earthly illnesses. Draw me close to you, Lord. I know the time is near. Help me to stop, listen and respond. We thank you Lord for building our community of other Christ followers, for giving us strength to live in our modern Judea’s while praising you. Thank you for calling us each by name.

Light in the Darkness

 

Links to today’s reading: Exodus 31; John 10; Proverbs 7; Galatians 6

What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? -Job 38:19

Early one morning I was trying to understand the multitude of world religions; many of which were compelling in some way. Could different belief systems be pointing to the same God like some people said? Was it possible to reconcile these without taking glory away from God, not ignoring the urgency and importance of sharing God’s story? I believed truth was found everywhere; but that didn’t mean everything was true. If there was a specific, profound, absolute truth that all people could discover, I wanted to know it; if it was applicable for everyone, I wanted to share it.

As I contemplated the idea of truth, the image of a large stone temple atop a great pyramid popped into my head. There were hundreds of meticulously cut stone steps, leading past sprawling terraces, to the massive doors of a mighty fortress on high.

Along the steps, and throughout the terraces, were statues of great men and women that had lived extraordinary lives, and of the world’s great beasts, elephants, lions and bears, all carved from the finest marble.  On each terrace were courtyards where splendid gardens grew; these were also decorated with statues of animals, and jeweled models of planets, solar systems and galaxies. Attached to well shaped trees were reptiles, mollusks and insects, formed from precious metals.

The air was heavy with moisture and the smell of spring and nectar. As inviting as this place was, something very important was missing — there was no light. None. The world that surround the Temple Mount was enveloped in total darkness, leaving the sojourners to wander these grounds, and climb the great steps; forever groping in the dark. They spoke to each other, describing the statues and models, which they often felt with their hands. Each believed they described a greater truth about this world they were blind to; some in wonder, some in humility, and some with arrogance. Each in their own way believed that something pointed the way (perhaps even offering a key) to the entrance of the temple, a thing, somehow, they knew in their hearts. Inside the temple, they believed, resided every good thing which was missing from their present lives. And each was certain that the entrance was at hand, calling out to the others, “come hither.”

One day the door of the temple opened, and out shone the most brilliant light, blinding the sojourners at first. Then, at the door of the temple, a lamb appeared, wearing a crown of light and calling out, “follow me.”

Now as the sojourners’ eyes adjusted to the light, they saw the things they had been describing to each other for the first time. Some were embarrassed that they had been so sure about the location of the door, or the ridiculous descriptions of things they could only feel. Others, when they saw the lamb at the door, immediately bowed down, knowing it was he who had opened the door to the fortress they had been searching for. Those who knew the truth then arose, and climbed the stairs to the entrance, there they were embraced by the king, who welcomed them. Surprisingly, many of the others remained behind, in disbelief. They were certain that which they had described in the darkness was still true; clues that would someday reveal the key and the door. Then the lamb called out, “come to me,”over and over to those who remained, but they could not hear. Eventually the door closed, and the darkness returned forever.

When Jesus spoke to the people, he said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. -John 8:12

Freedom

US Constitution with Hand Gun - Right To Keep and Bear Arms

Exodus 30; John 9; Proverbs 6; Galatians 5

Whether you love it or hate it, choose to directly engage or simply endure the fallout, the road to the November 2016 presidential election is weighing heavy on Americans these days. Unfortunately I’m not sure there is a way to escape this drama, even if you wanted to. It is almost always the first story in Gerard Baker’s daily 10 Point guide to The Wall Street Journal and it is on every news channel all day long.  An email from John Kasich actually showed up in my office inbox last week to request my vote in the Illinois primary!  Each of the candidates has a different view, a different approach, and vastly different plans for our nation.  It is this diversity of thought (and a lot of media hype) that fuels the craziness.  As we have witnessed over the course of 20+ debates, these Candidates agree on very little.  Furthermore, they are really passionate about their disagreements.  I am confident, however, they would all agree on one thing.  Each of them would find truth in some variation of the same guiding principle – every one of them loves the United States, and is committed to protecting her and the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of this great country (even thought they would go about it in vastly different ways).

The first freedom granted in the United States Bill of Rights is Freedom of Religion, Speech, and the Press.  It grants every U.S. citizen the right to practice a religion of their choice.  I am deeply grateful for this freedom.  Unlike Christians in many countries, I can worship God without breaking the law and, generally, without fearing for my safety.  Don’t get me wrong, I realize persecution may show up in a variety of other ways, but today, by law, I can freely worship God.

Galatians 5 is all about Freedom. The chapter begins with this statement, for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. The freedom Paul is talking about here is freedom from a long list of Old Testament laws.  It is also about freedom from sin.  Jesus died to free us from our sin.  Notice this freedom isn’t about doing whatever we want, as that behavior leads us back to the bondage of sin, rather it is the freedom to glorify God by loving and serving others.

Galatians 5:13-15

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Biting and devouring one another is what I remember the March 3 republican debate looking like. The candidates hurled so many insults, they seemed dangerously close to “consuming” one another.  It is so ironic that the race for the top government servant, involves so much nastiness.  Personally, I saw very little love for the United States or for its citizens in the discussion that night, even though I know it exists. Fortunately for most of us, our everyday life is not played out on national television.  That said, a similar nastiness has a tendency to creep into our lives in other ways.  Reflect on your actions of today, this week or last month.  Were they motivated by love?  Were they motivated by serving others?  God calls us to be different.

Galatians 5:22-24

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Throwing Stones

Our culture loves to gossip about the sexual affairs of others. We buy magazines and pay close attention to the television news stories regarding the latest scandal, or we gossip within our circle of friends as to the rumors of the cheating husband or wife (or sometimes both). One of the reasons I believe we are so intrigued by these scandals is that we immediately judge someone as the guilty party and in doing so, we think ourselves as better than the so-called “cheater”.

Today’s reading link: Exodus 29; John 8; Proverbs 5; Galatians 4

John 8:1-11 contains the story of a woman caught in the act of adultery. She’s brought to Jesus in the temple in front of a crowd. As with every Bible Journal post, I read through the scriptures several times looking for patterns, asking questions, and considering various perspectives in search of a topic to write about. The thing that brought me to today’s focus was that the adulteress had only three words to say “no one Lord”, so I started thinking about her perspective in the situation and went from there.

  • Where was her partner in crime? She must have felt betrayed in some sense by her lover since she was the sole guilty culprit brought to the temple to face punishment.
  • She didn’t deny the charges. We assume she was guilty. Was she sorry for the sin or more sorry she was caught?
  • The woman had to have been afraid for her life. The custom of stoning a person to death was surely no surprise. She was basically on trial for her life, believed by the crowd to be guilty, so the likely outcome was going to be death.
  • The woman was probably in shock when Jesus demonstrated such wisdom in his response. Perhaps she assumed that Jesus was going to condemn her to death or tell the Pharisees to leave her alone. What he did was a beautiful act of love, mercy, and wisdom which can only come from his connection with the Father. In doing so, Jesus once again does not fall into the trap.
  • It wouldn’t have been typical for the scribes and Pharisees to bring the guilty party to Jesus. When Jesus asks her “Has no one condemned you?”, her three word response… “No one Lord”. I’m envisioning a very embarrassed, tearful, honest and soft tone as she speaks these words.
  • I was wondering if the woman was remorseful for what she had done. Sure, we’re all seemingly remorseful when we’re caught, but did she truly feel badly? I’m going to assume that based on her sin, she knew deep down she was living a lie. Perhaps she was married, perhaps she was having an affair with a married man, or both. Regardless, she was living in some sort of darkness, afraid of getting caught.
  • The woman humbled herself to address Jesus as Lord. Remember, the Pharisees were the ones who were in the power seats with much authority. Jesus was a poor man from Nazareth, so for her to address him as Lord suggests she knew who Jesus was and perhaps even had reverence for him.
  • Did anyone else wonder what Jesus might have been writing in the dirt? Since writing supplies were limited, I assume it was a common practice to write in the dirt. He had something perfect to share, but unfortunately he was bothered by greedy accusers trying to trap him. I’ll chalk this up on my list of questions to ask Jesus.
  • How about those who intended to throw the stones? Upon being called out by Jesus, did they repent? Dropping the stones and walking away was their own confession that they too were sinners.
  • Jesus didn’t condemn the woman, instead he granted mercy and acknowledged the wrongdoing and commanded: Sin no more.

Did anyone else have a renewed feeling after reading this story? I love how this story is a story not just of one person’s sin, but truly a reflection of the sins of us all, God’s judgement, and the mercy given only through Jesus Christ.

  1. We have a sinner caught in the act, which could be any of us with any of our sins. God’s penalty for sin is death; no matter how big or small the sin, it still separates us from Him.
  2. Jesus, the light of the world exposes the darkness around the sinner in that those who were portraying righteousness were sinners as well.
  3. The enemy is not the adulteress woman. The enemy is Satan who wants us to remain in the dark and trapped in our sin. He is the father of lies who wants us to believe we cannot be forgiven. He wants us to think that we are the worst, that no one would understand, that we are all alone in our sin, and that the sinful choice is somehow better than the righteous path. He wants us to die in our sin.
  4. The penalty for sin is death, but Jesus intervened and gave the option for her to repent and sin no more. No one else can do this. We all have the choice to either go back to the bondage of sin, or allow Jesus to take over, and to trust that his way is the way that leads to life restored.

While part of me wishes we knew more about what happened to the woman and her accusers, I also enjoy the mystery as well as focus on what we can learn from what is shared with us. In the end, we can fully trust that there is nothing missing from the Bible; had God wanted us to know what happened, he’d have allowed those details to be provided.

God we thank you for revealing your character and your numerous perfect attributes through your words in the Bible. Thank you for giving us the resources to learn more about you and your ways and your will for our lives. Thank you for revealing our sins to us, reminding us of the penalty, and for your perfect plan in sending your son Jesus Christ to die as the substitute for the penalty that we deserve. Amen.

Rivers Flow

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Exodus 27; John 6; Proverbs 3; Galatians 2

I have ruminated on Jillian’s most recent post since reading it on Saturday. She talks about being thirsty.  Specifically, Jesus promises to help quench our thirst in John 4. He says “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:11-14) Today, Jesus expands on this teaching, explaining that once we have tasted the nectar of salvation, life becomes us. He says,

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38 ESV)

Two questions arise when I consider this text. First, what exactly do rivers of living water look like and second am I drinking the right water?

When you think of a river, which one comes to mind? The Illinois is the first to mine, I suppose because of its proximity. The second is the Mississippi in no small part because of Chevy Chase (here’s the clip). Why is the Biblical imagery of a river so important? Think for a minute about the volume of water flowing through them. A quick Google search reveals that more than 33 million people rely on the Mississippi river as their primary water source. Multiply that by the average 100, or so, gallons used daily by each person and we are talking about 3.3 billion gallons of water.  That is a lot of water! Isn’t this exactly what Jesus is promising? He literally tells us that he will give us a river of living water that will flow out of our hearts.

While trying to grasp the concept of a river of water flowing from my heart, two things strike me. The first is that the water is flowing. As opposed to a stagnate pool, flowing water, is vibrant. It carries energy.  In fact, big, flowing rivers of water provide enough power to light up entire cities! Not only is the water flowing, it is living. This life is not just its own, the water itself sustains countless creatures. In fact, the water is teaming with life.  Life lives in, above and around the river. In other words, the life given to me, flows out of me.  When it does, it nourishes and replenishes everyone around me. Said another way, if we truly have the life promised by Jesus, it will flow out of me. Enriched by the Holy Spirit, this life affects everyone around us. Jesus explains this further, telling us how we know it is the right water in John 13:35,

“Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Does this make you want to live by the river? As you know, a constant source of water is the only way to ensure life.  Make no mistake, Jesus Christ is the only source of this pure water.

Finally, I cannot leave you without sharing one of my favorite scriptures from Jeremiah 17.

““But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit
Jeremiah 17:7-8 NLTse

Worshiping in Spirit and in Truth

Today’s reading: Exodus 27; John 6; Proverbs 3; Galatians 2

March 16th, 2016

Worshiping in spirit and in truth

When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. – John 6:15

How would you react if a people wanted to make you a king? Would they have to force you?

Just as in the desert, Jesus here dismisses the lure power and status in this world as fake and not to be trusted. In the desert, the tempter showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in all their glory. His offer? If Jesus would worship him, he would give Jesus all the world had to offer. Let us be prudent and ensure we follow Jesus in his response.

Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. – Matthew 4:10

Worship is such an interesting topic to ponder and meditate on. I have come to believe that it is much more than singing God’s praises at church. I encourage you to consider that we are always worshiping. Do we not worship with our time and attention? Do we not worship with our thoughts and our hearts’ desires? Do we not worship with our money? If the answer is yes, the question then becomes; what are we worshiping? Are we engaging in the tempters value proposition? Are we taking him up on his offer of worshiping him for things of this world; worshiping false idols in return for illusions? A false idol can be anything that takes God’s place. As my good friend often says when it comes to worship, “God wants to be number one on a list of one.”

Pastor Phin Hall talks about some of the more common idols that we are tempted to put in God’s place.  “Work offers to provide for us giving us purpose, value and status. Other people offer us intimacy and self-worth. Entertainment offers us escape from the stresses and worries of everyday life.” Yet, ask anyone who has put their trust in these promises and now knows the truth and they will tell you; these promises are empty. The true offer is full of real things. “[God] gives true purpose, value and status, real intimacy and self-worth, and frees us completely from the stresses and worries of everyday life.“

Pastor Phin encourages us all to ask ourselves these questions regularly:

  • What do I long to do each day?
  • What do I look forward to when I wake up in the morning?
  • What would I rather do than spend time with God?

I am Working

Today’s Reading: Exodus 26; John 5; Proverbs 2; Galatians 1

I’ve heard the idiom that “a mother’s work is never done.” I see this idiom lived out daily in our lives as our two energetic, imaginative, loving boys  play from sun up to sun down and then some.  Thank you to my wife, Jennifer, for being such a wonderful mother and a blessing to our children. I can also say this phrase is true when you have to raise a son like myself.(Sorry mom) The phrase, a parents work is never done, is also true. I’m sure all parents will agree with me. So when I read through today’s reading I paused on John 5:17 When Jesus says to the Jews after healing a paralyzed man, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” To me, I think how Jesus is always working in us and he commands us to do the same.  Colossians 3:23  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

Recently I was listening to a series on Effective Parenting in a Defective World by Chip Ingram and heard about the parenting phases we can go through.  I talked with some parents about these working stages of parenting and the different roles parents play throughout our children’s lives.  In the beginning years we can identify with being the commander of our children.  Parents have to physically provide, watch over every move,  protect, and help them learn what they should and shouldn’t do.  We are their lifeline of survival. Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

As they get to around 4+ years we then transition into a teaching role where you are still telling and modeling what to do but often having to answer the “Why?” question.  As you teach 3 John verse 4 says I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. There are also moments when you need the verse Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. In either case God is still working in our children and us. 

As your children hit the middle school, high school, college years you turn into a coach who teaches specific skills and are able to call timeout when needed to focus on a skill, praise, or discipline. It’s an important time to influence their spiritual future. Provide them with experiences that help them see the reality of your faith and theirs. An important principle throughout parenting is to remember to only teach children what they are mentally and emotionally capable of learning. In addition to not habitually doing for your children what they can do for themselves. Allow our children to “fail forward” and turning their mistakes into stepping stones.

Our last phase of parenting falls into your children’s 20’s, 30’s, and beyond.  Your role as a parent becomes a “consultant”. This is when your children refer back to you and share their situations with you to gain your expertise. This continuum of parenting phases can vary based on our situation.   It is meaningful in the aspect of parenting as it is an opportunity to always be working in our children.  Like our spiritual Father, He has and will always be working in us.  God wants has told us to go and do work also.  Through our work we serve others. We are on Mission all the time to share the Good News. In our children, family, work, and with people we meet.  The opportunities are endless. God sent us a perfect example in Jesus and the Living Truth in the Bible. Philippians 2:13  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Through our work we can show love to God. One of God’s love languages is obedience. I’m amazed in Exodus the detail that goes into the building of the tabernacle.  From the skillful making of a curtain to the placing of each acacia wood beam. I believe God is reminding us that we also need to pay attention to detail in our work.  2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

God continues to demonstrate His theme of work in us through Proverbs 2. Sharing the importance of spiritual work in us that helps gain wisdom of His Ways and understanding of His Word.  God wants us to treasure up His commandments and walk with integrity. Incline our hearts to righteousness. Our work we put into the understanding of His Word will guard you and deliver us from evil. Proverbs 2:6-7 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; (7)he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity

So in the start to your Tuesday morning, what are you working on?

Who are you working for?

Does our work show the love of the Lord or love of men?

Dear Father,

You are always working in us and through us. I pray that as we work in our own lives, our children’s, and in others, we make our work about You and building Your Kingdom.  Thank you for sending your own Son for us to have the perfect example.  Thank you for showing us how to work at being a parent and living for You. I pray that  in whatever calling you have put us in we work with integrity and have a genuine love for others. Lord I know I fall short many times in many areas. I’m grateful for the work you are always doing in me and pray for a consistent clear picture of a daily walk with You. Dear God I pray that the work I do focuses less on me and more about you. Thank you for being with us in our daily work in our family, homes, or other work places.God promises to never leave you.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

The Woman at the Well

Wishing WellToday’s Readings: Exodus 25, John 4, Proverbs 1, 2 Corinthians 13

It’s Monday. As much as I wanted to bring it in a real Ark of the Covenant, Exodus changes your life two cubits at a time kind of way. I can’t. I can’t because today is woman at the well day! I am literally on fire for the woman at the well and I want you to be blazing too! Let’s just get to the best part:

“A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink” For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:7-10

I grew up hearing this story from one of the greatest storytellers I know. Fr. Michael Kennedy was the pastor at my childhood Catholic church and elementary school. As a child I listened to his stories at Friday morning school mass and eventually studied with him in preparation for my first communion and confirmation. Father Michael has a special commitment to children and prisoners. In his book, the forwarding author states that Fr. Michael believes that our Father God lends a special ear to children and prisoners, as his Son was both. He spent his life sharing the good news of Jesus Christ through storytelling and song. One of his most convicting works is his re-telling of the woman at the well.

It starts at the well in Sychar, where Jesus sits to rest his feet in a bit of shade. The woman from Samaria comes to draw water and Jesus asks her for a drink. Immediately she asks how he a Jew could ask she a Samarian for a drink. Bible Gateway’s commentary for today’s reading discusses the history behind the tension between Jews and Samaritans. At this time the hatred between the two groups had grown so fierce, there was no opportunity for positive interaction between them.

Stop right there.

Did you hear it?

The hatred between these two groups had become so contentious and volatile that folks couldn’t be at the well together. Did you really hear that? We are living in a Jews versus Samaritans world.  The  democrats and republicans can’t come to the same well! Like the woman at the well, we invest in conversation about our differences rather than spending our energy on our eternity. The gospel is absolutely alive in our lives today and we are just dipping water from our own “wells” drinking it over murmurs of hostility and antagonism. Again and again Jesus sets an example for us, teaching us how we are to live as Christians. He reaches across the aisle here and offers this woman a drink of eternal salvation. He offers her living water. And still here, she has no idea who she’s dealing with. She asks him, “…where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock” (John 4:11-13). She is standing with Jesus, cup in hand, chatting him up about water quality when really, the man standing before her is not the enemy she perceives him to be. It is not until he proves himself to her by showing how much he knows about her, that she believes.

Do we need proof to believe what cannot be seen? If I were standing at the water cooler with Jesus would I recognize him? One of my favorite descriptions of faith is just that: believing in what cannot be seen. Can I go to the well in search of living water and trust that He has it for me? Is it possible for me to see God in the Samaritan at work or in the store and share living water with him?

As a young adult, the lesson I drew from this scripture was about seeking God first. It was about finding a path in my life that ran alongside that living water. A path to healing the sick, ministering to children and having a family that mirrors Him. Today, as I re-read the story of the woman at the well, it resonates in a whole different way. The woman says, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with and the well is deep.” The well is deep. Doesn’t it feel deep? Doesn’t it feel some days like the living water we need is unreachable? Then Jesus says to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again.” Yes. I am constantly thirsty again! I am always coming to the same well thirsty. I’m thirsty for more money, I’m thirsty for the next iPhone, I’m thirsty for a better job, I’m thirsty for the next best workout, I’m thirsty for more dark chocolate crunch pretzel crisps… Then Jesus seals the deal, he says, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:11-14) If you can’t feel him reaching through the page of your bible or the screen right now, close your eyes and feel harder!!! He’s here with us, this message for the woman at the well isn’t just for her. It’s a very real promise he makes to all of us.

Father Michael Kennedy passed away on January 23, 2010. An Irishman through and through he loved St. Patrick’s Day, and in fact he’d completed 14 years of service as pastor at St. Patrick’s Church when he died. I own a cassette recording of him telling the story of the woman at the well and still enjoy listening to it from time to time. He and I share a birthday this week. He would have been 75 and I will be 35. He began all of his stories with the following:

I wasn’t there but others were and they told others who told others,Who told still others, and down down the centuries and finally someone told me. Today I tell you. You may want to tell others…

 Please share the message of the woman at the well with someone today. It is through you that Jesus can give living water.

You can see a photo of Fr. Michael Kennedy and read about his book here:

Fr. Michael Kennedy

Revelation

Link to Today’s reading: Exodus 24; John 3; Job 42; 2 Corinthians 12

Despite being a lukewarm, cultural Christian most of my adult life, I still had many great conversations about God, the Bible and truth. Conversations, that despite their assumed relevance, lacked something they seemed to beg for. Without a deeper personal commitment to my faith, and a constant connection to God, or without the relentless pursuit of spiritual transformation; my conversations lacked real power.

I wanted my words to be more engaging, more compelling, filled with power that came from authenticity.  But ultimately, this power could only come from God, and without the presence of the Holy Spirit, my discussions were still constrained in every way possible by the limits of my flesh. Eventually, I found myself in more conversations where the Holy Spirit’s participation seemed present — and these were very different. They were conversations with people who were pursuing lives of demonstrative faith through action, conversations that spoke beyond our words, in silent power. Perhaps, someday, I too would learn how to communicate like that.

Sometimes, Christians view discussions of faith as contests of ideas. And while the competition of ideas can be a good thing; when it comes to matters of faith, and in particular, understanding God, sometimes it is best to plead, “no contest.” Yes, I believe reason is still important in the discussion about God, but it isn’t the main thing — God is! We communicate with each other through language and ideas, limited by our understanding and experience, also by our capacity for abstract thinking and logic; but God communicates with us in other ways. In addition to revelation through the lives of people, God reveals himself through nature, and also by the law laid down in scripture (Psalm 19, and Psalm 119). In each of these three forms of revelation, it is through the Holy Spirit that God speaks directly and miraculously to the hearts of those, who by faith, choose to listen. It is He, who gives us ears to hear and eyes to see, profoundly, if that is what we ask for and what we seek (Matthew 7:7-8). How we choose to respond to God’s revelation, however, is personal, and something we must decide.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my father as well. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” -John 14:6-7

In a conversation with a freind the other day I was presented with this question: aren’t all major religions worshipping the same God? My response was, “no.” Different religions worship different gods, that is the main point of them. However, if there is only one true God, a God above all gods, then it makes sense that anyone, in any religion, seeking God with all their hearts, minds and souls, will find Him. God is calling out through time and space to his whole creation. In a sense, all paths could lead to a God who is always next to us, always calling to us, waiting for our answer; but it seems that our answer, regardless of our religion, is often at best, a timid whisper, “maybe.” Then my freind challenged me with the history of Christianity, filled with abuses and hypocrisy. “If Christianity is the one true path to God, why then is there so much evidence of Christians behaving poorly?” Now I understood his point, much of my life offered evidence to support it; but I said this: “Christianity is a religion practiced by imperfect people, imperfectly. And not all who claim it are true followers.” There are people in all religions who profess a faith that they don’t live up to — Christianity is no different in that sense. This fact however, doesn’t prove that the Christian story is false, any more than the millions of changed lives through out history, prove that it is true. Either it is or it isn’t, and it remains for all to consider: is there a Divine Creator of everything, who is personal, who can be known, who desires to be known?

God has written a story on the hearts of men, and in history; by creating a nation through one family, then rescuing that nation from slavery, delivering them to “the Promised Land.” Finally, through that same nation, after generations of prophesy (that is eventually fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus), God provides the means to rescue all humanity from their sin. God’s story is one of promises made and kept; deliverance and provision and restoration. God created the world, then intervened in its history to finish His work; the undeserved perfection of the Human soul. We need only to respond in faith to God’s overwhelming and constant revelation. How will you respond today?

Jesus said: While I am in the world, I am the light the world. -John 9:5

Choices

Exodus 23; John 2; Job 41; 2 Corinthians 11

Stack of cards with Question Marks on them

Today’s post is written by my friend Carol Snyder. Carol and I met about 6 years ago when I moved down the street from her.  We were fast friends!  Carol currently picks me up at 5am to go to the gym 2-3 days per week.  It’s amazing what ground we can cover in 11 minutes to the gym and 11 minutes home!  I love those conversations.  Carol has encouraged me in a lot of ways over the past couple of years, including cheering me on as I accepted the challenge of writing a Biblejournal.net post each week during 2016.  When Carol learned of my plans to be out of town for a few days this week, she was quick to volunteer as a guest writer.  What a great friend!

Carol, I’m grateful for our friendship. I look forward to many more early morning conversations in the days to come!

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As I start to write my first bible journal entry, I am nervous yet excited. How can I follow in the footsteps of this team of bloggers?  Back on January 1st when I heard the team was going to “read the bible in a year”, I was all in.  Even after growing up the daughter of a Lutheran minister, I am sadly remiss in reading the bible.  As I have been reading along, I am rereading many stories I know, but also working through hard chapters (such as Job), which I never spent much time with before.  The daily blog entries are just as inspiring and enriching as the bible verses; they speak to me in an every day interpretation of the bible.  Thank you for my daily enrichment!

On to our daily reading and the verses I chose for today’s journal entry. It was a tough choice between the almost fairy tale “Wedding at Cana” in John 2 which I love or the “Do this, not that” story line of Exodus.  I chose the latter because it reflected the choices we are given on a daily basis.

Think back to the time when you were a little child and your parents told you:

  • “Don’t touch that stove, it’s hot.”
  • “Don’t put that toy in your mouth, you might choke.”
  • “Don’t wander off, a stranger might take you.”

Oftentimes, they did not give you an alternative. They just said, “Don’t do that”.

As we grew older, our friends started to weigh in:

  • “Don’t hang out with that person, they are different. Hang out with me!”
  • “Don’t dress like that, people will think you are weird. Wear this!”
  • (We were even bombarded in magazines by the DO/DON’T fashion police!)
  • “Don’t join that club, it’s for nerds. Play this sport.”

Sometimes we followed our friends but sometimes we made our own choices as we started to develop into adults.

As adults, we will hear the same “don’t do that, do this” messages:

  • “Don’t be a couch potato, exercise 30 minutes five days a week!!”
  • “Don’t eat bread or sugar, go paleo or do the 21-day fix.”
  • “Don’t vote for that candidate, they are corrupt. Vote for this guy or gal.”

We are faced with many mixed messages on a daily basis. How can we go through the day and not feel some pressure from our own choices?  Do we make the best choices possible?  Do we help others make good choices?  Do we follow God?  Most likely, we don’t make perfect choices, for we are sinners.

In Exodus 23, God is very clear on his expectations for what we should not do:

1You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.

“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.

If we are presented with gossip, do we spread it? Or if we are presented with helping someone in need who might have lost something, do we return it?  We can make many parallels just to these verses.  I sum it up as “Do the Right Thing” or as I tell my kids “Make Good Choices”.

God continues with his expectations, including taking a break from the daily pressures. He knows we aren’t perfect and we do have a lot on our shoulders.  We have many mixed messages and as each week unwinds, he gives us time to refresh, renew and relax.

12 “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.

He understands we need to start anew each week. He gives us a chance to improve and to make better choices.  The best part is he sends an angel to help us.  All we have to do is listen for the voice, the inner voice helping us through our daily choices.

20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him.

22 “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.

As we get further into the New Testament, he references the Holy Spirit in John 14:26:

26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Lord, please help me to make the right choice in my daily life. Let me refresh and begin the week with a new outlook.  Shine your Holy Spirit on me so that I might be a light for you.  Amen.