The Parts of the Bible I Don’t like

 

bible

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”  – Romans 12: 14

Mark Twain famously said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

Like the verse above from Romans 12 about blessing those who persecute you, or Jesus teaching about loving not only you neighbor, but also loving your enemy (Matthew 5: 43-44), some parts of the bible, I think I understand, and they really convict me to my core.

Loving those who love you is hard enough, but for the followers of Jesus it’s not enough.  We are commanded to love those who persecute us, our enemies.

Today, well, every day, I’m challenged to love those folks that just don’t like me.  My big brother taught me something years ago.  He said, “Trust me, there are plenty of people who have had good reasons to not like you, but there are also those persons who don’t like you, well, just because they don’t like you.”

It’s hard for us to understand most of us to understand that some people aren’t going to like us “just because”.

Although it doesn’t seem to matter to Paul, as the author of Romans, or to Jesus about the “why” someone doesn’t like us, or even “why” we might not like them – whatever the reason – we are called and commanded to love and bless our enemies anyway.

I guess Twain was right, it’s not the parts of the bible I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts that I do understand.

My challenge every day, and my challenge to you today, is to love your enemies and bless those who persecute you.

So who is The Spirit prodding you to love today?  Which persecutor or enemy?

Prayer:  Lord, loving is hard and makes us vulnerable, yet you call us to love not only our neighbor, but even our enemies and those who would persecute us.  Give us the strength and wisdom to do it.  Amen.

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Running on Empty is Impossible

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12 So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne. – Hebrews 12: 1-2

Let’s face it, some days it’s just difficult to get going and the older I get, the harder it gets to roll these bones out of bed.   From conversations I’ve had, I know I’m not alone.   We all see the expanding number of coffee shops and increased shelf space for energy drinks.

That’s just the physical side of things.  Hebrews 12: 1-2, the verses above, are supposed to inspire our faith, to help us “get after it”.

My question today, is how is your soul?  Is your soul tired and worn out?  They don’t sell a drink for that one.  You can’t buy a case of “Get After It”  at the store to fuel your attitude or your spirit, they don’t sell it.  The solution for tired soul, a worn out spirit, is two-fold, and may seem contradictory, but it’s not.

First, since it’s Lent, what are you doing to “get after it”?  Increase prayer?  Fasting?  More time reading the bible and digging in to God’s Word?  Giving more to your community to others? Or as Hebrews says, “Run the race…and fix our eyes on Jesus”.  These are things we can do, like spiritual exercise and food for the soul.

Second, rest.  My son plays baseball.  He’d play all day if we let him.  Near the end of last baseball season, he had played so many games, he was physically and emotionally tired of baseball.  When the season was over, we took almost two months off.  After two weeks he was itching to get back into baseball, but we made him rest.  We’re his parents, we can still control that – make our kids rest.  But who does that for us?  We do.  We have to make ourselves rest.  It refreshes the soul.

Seems like an oxymoron doesn’t it?  Do more and rest.  But it’s the same for your physical body is it not?  Exercise more, put good nutrition in, and rest more to be healthier.  The same principle works for our soul.

Today, I challenge you to take a look a deep look at your spirit.  How are you really doing?  What will you do to make it better?

Prayer:  Lord, strengthen me when I am physically, emotionally, or spiritually worn out.  Teach me your ways and refresh me.  Amen.

Not Getting Bent

bent

Don’t get upset over evildoers;
    don’t be jealous of those who do wrong,

Psalm 37: 1

“Love your neighbor.”  “Love your enemies.”   Jesus teaches both of these.  The first, loving our neighbor, is hard enough, but loving our enemies?  That’s just hard.  I generally like most folks; you have to really have to wrong me or someone I love for me to not like you, but if your actions or words threaten the folks I love and care for, then I will get bent.  Most of us would.

The challenge for me, for us, comes in Jesus telling us to “Love our enemies”, or the Psalmist reminding us, “Don’t get upset over evildoers”.

So, what does it take to not get bent out of shape over evil?  This does not mean we ignore it, but find a way to keep composure in the face of evil.  Will the evil we encounter today change us or cause us to react?  Or is there a different way; can we face evil with love?

This is different from the ways of the world, but is the way we are called to live as followers of Jesus Christ.  This is not easy; this is a huge challenge.  Are you up for it?  I pray we are.

Prayer:  Lord, some days it feels like we are surrounded by darkness and evil.   Give us wisdom and courage to keep our composure in the face of evil and in times of adversity.  When we face evil, may your love and light shine through us.

Preying on the powerless…

Some thoughtful and faithful words shared from a good friend of mine that relates to immigration.

Fuel for the journey

0409-cmexico-immigrants-mexico-harvestScripture: Ezra 10:9 Then all the people of Judah and Benjamin (recently returned from exile in Babylon) assembled at Jerusalem within the three days; it was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month. All the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain. 10 Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have trespassed and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. 11 Now make confession to the LORD the God of your ancestors, and do his will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” 12 Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, “It is so; we must do as you have said”…44 All these had married foreign women, and they sent them away with their children.

Observation:God’s people had just returned from…

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Better Together

Better Together

11 I really want to see you to pass along some spiritual gift to you so that you can be strengthened. 12 What I mean is that we can mutually encourage each other while I am with you. We can be encouraged by the faithfulness we find in each other, both your faithfulness and mine.  

Romans 1: 11-12

One thing I do during Lent is to give thanks for the amazing people God has put in my life.  There are too many to list here, but if you are reading this, you are on that list because somehow, someway, God has crossed our paths together at some point.  So, I thank God for you today.

One motivating factor for me creating this blog is to inspire you and build you up with a word of God’s grace.  One of the benefits I get is from your comments and conversations.

One benefit I get is from your comments and conversations.

I think that’s what Paul is suggesting in the beginning of his letter to the Church in Rome. He wants to be with them to inspire them and be inspired by them through the power of sharing the Gospel, the message of God’s love and grace for us.  And he’s clear, we don’t do this alone.  We do it together.  It’s always better together, in community, in relationship…not easier, but better.

I hope this little tidbit for today, reminds you that God loves you, that God is with you, whatever you are going through, and whatever you are going through, you are not alone, we will face life together, picking each other up, building each other up.

Grace and Peace.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the gift of other faithful folks who have helped me along life’s journey.  May I be a blessing to others as they have been a blessing to me.

Gifting Grace

gift

The one whose wrongdoing is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered over, is truly happy!
The one the Lord doesn’t consider guilty—
    in whose spirit there is no dishonesty—
    that one is truly happy!

Psalm 32: 1-2

I remember when the day when, as a sassy teenager having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, Mrs. Stubblefield sent me out of the accounting class and into the hall.  As I awaited my punishment for smarting off one too many times, I remember thinking, oh well, I earned it, the detention or whatever she was about to dole out to teach me lesson.

That’s not what happened.  She finished the section she was teaching the class, and then she came out to deal with me.  She looked square into my eyes, and instead of issuing punishment, she simply said, “What’s wrong?, What’s going on?, I’m here if you need to talk.”  She offered me grace, and I never forgot it.  Ever.

Did I deserve the detention?  Yes.  Did I get it? No.  That’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace –  the actions of love.

God gifts us the same grace.  It’s because that’s who God is and how God rolls.  God is love, and love in action most commonly reveals itself in mercy, forgiveness, and grace.

This is our model from Philippians 2:

Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:

Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave
        and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
        he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
        even death on a cross.

May this be our mindset, our heart, our way of life.  The same way that Jesus shows us on The Cross, and that Mrs. Stubblefield showed me in the hallway.

Who can you gift with grace today?

Prayer: Peace Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

 grace-undeserved-gift

Never Too Far Gone

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18 I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19  I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him.  – Luke 15: 18-20

It’s the story of the Prodigal Son as told by Jesus.  One of the most popular scriptures throughout the world.  Why?  Because we all mess up.  We can all identify with the Prodigal Son.  We wonder to ourselves, are we beyond God’s reach?

The answer is no.  God won’t force us to stay, but the Lord will always welcome us home, no matter how atrocious our thoughts, words, or deeds have been.

One thing I’ve learned from experience, when you feel you don’t deserve love is when you need it the most, and the moment when love comes bearing grace and forgiveness is when love is most powerful.

Maybe you’re the one who needs the simple reminder today, that I need every day.  You are never beyond God’s love, mercy, and grace.  God has always loved you and always will.  Even when, especially when, you don’t deserve it.

Prayer:  Lord, how can you still love me?  I don’t know how, but I know that you do.  I guess that’s why it’s called grace.  Thank you for loving me when I needed it most.  Amen.

 

How to Say Goodbye…

sail_away_by_jonashhaugen

32 Now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all whom God has made holy.  35 In everything I have shown you that, by working hard, we must help the weak. In this way we remember the Lord Jesus’ words: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” 36 After he said these things, he knelt down with all of them to pray.  – Acts 20: 32, 35-36 (CEB)

I’m getting older.  We all are.  It’s life.  But part of us aging, means those around us are getting older too.  I recently got to see my dad, and while he is reasonably healthy, at 77 years old, I always have to wonder, was it the last time?

What do you say to someone when you know in all likelihood it will be the last time you ever see them face-to-face?  Sure, it’s not as bad with modern technology, we can always Skype or FaceTime.  But when you know you physically won’t be in the room with that person again, what do you say?

In Acts 20 (above), Paul is saying goodbye to his friends and co-workers at the church he planted in Ephesus.  He knows he will probably never see them again.  You can feel the heartache if you read the whole section slowly.  Here in the last verses of his goodbye, he trusts them to God’s grace and reminds them to work hard so that you can be a giver to others.   That’s great advice, like a parent to a child, no matter what age, reminding you to be safe, use your manners, and write thank you notes.

Then there’s this final moment of speaking to God together in prayer.  Their final, tearful, earthly goodbyes ring a note of Heaven’s hope. Isn’t that beautiful?  Then he gets on the ship and sails on.

Most the time, we don’t know when our last goodbye will be with someone, but sometimes we do.  I find it helpful in those moments to trust God that we will be together again someday.

Prayer:  Lord, saying goodbye is hard. Parting is such sweet sorrow.  Thank you for putting people in our lives to love and share this journey with.  May we be together again someday.  Amen.

Hope, Faith, and Courage

hope-faith-courage

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. 14 You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.    – Matthew 5: 13-16 (CEB)

Knowledge without action is wasted and worthless, or as James 2:17 proclaims, In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.”  I think that’s what Jesus is getting at in the verses above from Matthew.

What good is what you believe or what you know, if it doesn’t change your heart and the way live?  Jesus encourages his disciples to put their faith into action.  Do you believe God calls us to care for yet to be born children and the future of the planet they will live on?  Act.  Do you believe in caring for widows and children?  Act.  Do you believe in caring for the hungry and the homeless?  Act.  Do you believe in equity for all people?  Act.  Do you believe in _______?  Act.

Today’s scripture challenges us to put our faith into action.  While I hate the need for protests, I’m actually encouraged by seeing people put their faith into action by caring for immigrants, women, children, and people of color. Standing up for our neighbors is putting our faith into action.  Our world needs us to be the salt of the earth, the light on the hill now more than ever.

Prayer:  Lord, you have shown us mercy and love, that we might be loving and merciful. Give us the courage to put our faith into action, to speak for those marginalized by our society, our laws, our religion or our governing principalities.  Send us out today to be salt for the earth, the light on the hill.  Amen.

Jail Break and Unfathomable Mercy

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25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” – Acts 16: 25-29 (NRSV)

Paul and Silas had been beaten severely and jailed.  In the midst of this suffering situation, the sing hymns to God.  Then, when the earthquake hits, they could have escaped, they could have run for the hills or fled to another town.  What do they do?  The stay and minister to the warden.

What a beautiful example of lives transformed by God’s love, mercy and grace shown to us in Jesus.  They don’t do what most people would do or want to do. The don’t run and they don’t seek revenge.  They show mercy and love.

I want to be like that today.  Merciful.  After all the love that God has shown us, it’s the least we can do for others.

Here’s the challenge today for you and me.  Who do you resent?  Who would you like to get revenge on?  How can you show them mercy and love, just as God has done for you?

This is almost a foreign concept, and it’s definitely counter-cultural, but it is the “still more excellent way” that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 12:31 and that way of life that Jesus, Paul, Silas, and the saints of then and now model for us to immitate.

Prayer:  Lord, you have been unfathomably merciful to me.  Teach me, lead me, to be merciful to others.  Amen.