Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

“Kelly, can you handle this?
Michelle, can you handle this?
Beyoncé, can you handle this?
I don’t think they can handle this!”  


It’s too bootylicious.

Guilty pleasure.  What can I say?  I’ll tell you something else while I’m revealing secrets- I like Justin Timberlake too.

Who’s next?  Anybody?  Guilty pleasures confession time in the comment box, please.  BTW, save yourself: Don’t do an image search for “bootylicious.”

* * *

This year my wife expanded her repertoire once again by making blueberry jam/fruit preserves.  We’ve enjoyed it, but I have a feeling it won’t last long. I mean- it WOULD last.  But it won’t.

* * *

11The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
12Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses.
13Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
but a rod is for the back of the one who lacks sense.
14The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of the fool hastens destruction.
I’m going through Proverbs right now with my oldest son.  I really want to instill the value of reading the bible into my children.  Not just running their eyes over the text, and patting them down into the flesh of my heart.  I want them to pound it in, like the old type set keys punch through a ribbon and impressed themselves into the roller through paper.  I feel like I almost killed myself by only sort of reading scripture.  Sort of like a vaccination.  I had just enough “word” in my system to build anti-bodies, but not enough for it to really make me sick.  Sick meaning different, changed.
So we read one verse in proverbs, each day.  And we talk about it.  And then we pray about it.  Like, literally- about the contents of that proverb.  Which can be kind of challenging, because I have to come up with something and do it for myself before I can offer anything to my son.  We read verse 14 today, “The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of the fool hastens destruction.”
So I asked him- how do you “store” something?  You just put it away, right?  Let’s look in the closet pantry.  Ketchup, baked beans, noodles, cereal.  I asked him, what’s in the jelly your mom made the other day?
“Uh…. blueberries?”
“Yeah!”  But how is it that we have to keep the blueberries cold before they’re made into jam, but after they’re made into jam and they’re all in jars, they just sit on a shelf?
Well, the answer is obvious if you’ve ever looked in the back of the fridge before.  It’ll rot.  Even if you keep it cold.
So to make it last, you have to do something to it.  It needs to be cooked, processed, canned- in short, before we can “store” the blueberries to be enjoyed later, it needs to be prepared and worked over a little bit.  You can’t just throw it in a jar and start stocking up.
 So the “wise” stores knowledge, and wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning.  And the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.
What makes one wise?  How does one be found “discerning”?  Or how does my mouth become a “fountain of life”?
Proverbs 2 says that God gives all wisdom, and that from his mouth come understanding and knowledge.  So there’s two kinds of knowledge: the kind that comes from God, and then there’s the “other kind.”  One kind is a “fountain of life.”  Then there’s the “other kind.”  Anything you’ve learned that wasn’t the wisdom of God, that wasn’t from his mouth- has no power to save you.  It has no power to lend life- to give life to others.   And if I read this right, if you aren’t a fountain of life, you’re actually a fount of the “other kind.”  And in an unfortunate twist, that “other kind” happens to be our default setting.
It says the mouth of the wicked conceals violence, and the mouth of the fool hastens destruction.  Dude.  It’s coming.  Destruction, the opposite of life.  I’m not really saying it’s coming.  It’s here.  It’s our present reality.  Order becomes chaotic.  What is born begins to die.  And selfishness reigns in our spirits.
But there’s a gem hidden in all that.
“Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses…”
“…but a rod is for the back of one who lacks sense…”
Encouraged?  GOOD!  I thought it would be good to end with some uplifting news.
What’s the good news?  Rod’s aren’t for *killing*.  Rod’s are for correcting.  For re-purposing, re-directing.  They’re for 2nd chances.  Shepherd’s use rods to poke the sheep back onto a safe path.  God says the rod is to make bodily the unbreakable association between sin and death.  If the question is Sin?  Then the inescapable answer is always Death.  Sin = death.  No point in correcting something that is doomed.  It’s only good to correct if the intent is to see the undesired action erased, forgotten, not to be repeated.  That’s the GOOD NEWS!  God’s correction is evidence of his love.  And his intent to repair what is broken.  Even if it’s us.
So I tell him (the boy, not God) that if we desire to experience life- if we desire to have discernment, and wisdom, and knowledge- the source will always be in God’s word.  It may not end there, but it will begin there.  And it’s not enough to trot through.  It’s best to crawl- army style.  It’s only as powerful as we understand it to be.  So I want to teach them as I myself learn to take small bites, and chew till it’s mash.  Just absorb it.  And LIVE!


Posted: August 20, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40He said to them,“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”41And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

I’ve been reading the gospel of Mark lately.  You should too.  I love all the kittens.  Like these:

but u sed

You too?!  I know.  Why?  Because, kittens.

Right?  Of course.

Okay.  That’s fun.  But really, there’s no kittens in the gospel of Mark.  I think they’re pretty much limited totally to the gospel of John- because he’s all about Love and stuff.  Mark’s kind of in too big a hurry all the time to be snappin pics of kittens.

But seriously though.  I read this passage this morning and it was like a brand new experience.  I’d read it before of course.  Everyone knows the story about Jesus telling the wind and the sea to simmer down.  Do you ever read the bible, store the data, and totally not really get the point?  Like, you’re take away is… “uh, because…. Jesus?”

But I think this time was different.

We’ve got these “experienced” fishermen out on the lake, going to the other side.  I can’t help but mention that they left at dusk.  You know, when EVERYBODY gets in their boat and shoves off.  Course, maybe it’s not THAT weird, being fishermen and stuff.  But I also noticed that they’ve just had an encounter with “the crowd,” who keeps following them everywhere.  And I can’t help but wonder if they were looking to make a discreet exit under the cover of darkness.  But anyway, there.  I’ve mentioned that.

So, they’re working their way across the lake, and a huge storm comes up, so huge that the size of the waves is such that they are cresting over the top of the boatside.  But meanwhile Jesus, tired from a big day of miracles, and exasperating encounters with dull disciples, is … fast asleep in the bottom of the boat.  Where all that cold water is sloshing around.  Weird.

So, cut to the guys at the oar, and panic abounds.  They decide that they might be in over their heads, and decide they better get the honcho on the case.

And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

He wakes up, and gets right to the business of settling down the storm.  “Peace!”

And there was a great calm. . .

Sounds like a nice night to be on the water.  NOW.  And Jesus turns to his shipmates, and proceeds to rail.

Have you ever asked yourself what he was so upset about?  I just did.

It seems reasonable, doesn’t it?  I mean, big storm, big waves, water in the bottom of the boat.  Middle of the night.  Death.  Yeah, I’d be a little freaked out.  But Jesus doesn’t seem to agree.  I mean, what does he expect?  That since we’re in the boat with Jesus we’re safe?  Nothing bad can happen?

I don’t really think so.

Here’s what I think: I think that Jesus wasn’t rebuking the concern they had for the danger they were in.  They were in legitimate danger.  He rebuked the fear that made them totally freak out.

In John’s gospel, Jesus promises that the world will hate us if we follow him, because it hated him first.  He says that “you will have trouble in the world.” But then he says: “TAKE HEART!  I have conquered the world!”  I think *that* is what was irritating him in the boat.  The disciples were afraid.

* * *

I love the 23rd Psalm.  It’s beautiful and poetic.  It’s tranquil and yet conquering.  But my favorite part slides by almost without being noticed.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

Can you guess which part is my favorite?

    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Jesus says earlier in John that he is the good shepherd.  I’m sure that this Psalm of David wasn’t far from his mind, nor the minds of his listeners.  The comfort for me is in the fact that God leads us along paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  I think Jesus was rebuking the disciples not for responding to the storm- it WAS dangerous.  But they doubted their wellness.  They were panicked.  WHY?  Jesus asks, “where is your FAITH?”  But the object of their faith is God.  The very best shepherd.

And the really good news isn’t that He’s a good shepherd either.  Nope.  It’s that he will always BE OUR good shepherd BECAUSE IT’S HIS REPUTATION THAT’S ON THE LINE.  Not because we’re great sheep.  Even if we are.  And even if we’re not.  But because if he didn’t lead us in paths of righteousness, he wouldn’t BE a good a shepherd, and that’s just not who he is.

Hopefully, next time I’m in a storm, and the waves have my whiskers all wet, I can go to Jesus, and tell him I need him.  And I won’t be scared.  I won’t be, as James says, double-minded, being tossed about this way and that way like a wave on the ocean.  Hmm.  I wonder if James ever went on a three-hour tour with his older brother, the wind-whisperer?

Genesis 47:

23 Joseph said to the people, “Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground. 24 But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children.”
 25 “You have saved our lives,” they said. “May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.”
 26 So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt—still in force today—that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh. It was only the land of the priests that did not become Pharaoh’s.

27 Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number.
 28 Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven. 29 When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.”
                “I will do as you say,” he said.
 31 “Swear to me,” he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.[d]

The last scenes of Genesis are set.  Jacob, the place on the young tree where the trunk ends, and the branches burst out in array, is leaning on a bedpost, old and ailing.  Jacob, Israel, whose turbulent life crossed the deserts and plains of modern day Syria, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, and crossed paths with God in visions, dreams, and once, in the shadowy form of another man.

God is often perceived as being static, decorous, and formal.  He’s perceived as being distant, prone to commands and cursing, mighty acts of judgement that come from some lofty place.  He is not the friendly grandfather that we see in characters like Santa Claus.  Rather, he’s the grumpy old man at the end of the block who has a barrel full of baseballs that came over the fence, but were abandoned by boys who would sooner go home to get another ball than attempt to recover the long ball from his yard.

But none of that appears in this prospectus on God.

In this first glimpse of God, He and what He has created are very intimate.  God is the woo-er, coming in dreams, coming in smokey visions and revealing who He really is.  Assuring recipients of these visions and dreams that He is good, that He has a special calling and purpose for them, and that it is good.

In a land and culture where the meek must please and satisfy the wants and needs of their gods, the God of the Bible comes to serve and prosper the wants and needs of his people.  In a culture where people sacrifice their animals, and spill their own blood in sacrifices of self-mutilation, we see a God who covenants Himself to a person- walking between the slain animals in an expression of promise with fateful consequences while Abram looking on.

While the peoples around bribe and flatter their gods, the God introduced in the Bible pours blessing out, offering himself in community, saying “I will be with you,”  not “come and be with me.”

And now, we witness His reliability unfolding.  Generations ago, He made a promise to Eve.  Then He told an old man to build a boat, and that he would be a blessing to every family on Earth.  Then He told another old man to not be afraid, that he would a father in his old age.  That he would father nations of nations.  Even though it seemed to take forever, the longer it took the more amazing it became.  And it happened.  

Then, He provided for Isaac a divinely appointed wife, with whom the promises to Abram would continue to blossom.

Not that it was easy.  Not that it was a constant source of pleasure and joy.  But nevertheless and never you mind, despite the many pains and problems that life in a sin-touched world presents, God is faithful to His promises, and Jacob is the place where the stump ends and the branches of the tree spring out.  While the winds shake the tree, rattling every dry leaf and every heavy nut right off, it prospers through dry seasons and pleasant ones.

The promise is still vibrantly alive and expanding.  A boy is born, and through tragedy finds himself able to buffet the crushing waves of famine that would have cut the top off the tree like a tornado.  And by the boys shrewdness and God’s insight, He is able to literally save a generation from death and dryness.

Now, a very, very old and wearied man takes rest in God, leaning upon the head of his bed, and worshipping this faithful God, this God who has loved him when he was running and when he was still.  A God who his father loved and told stories of- stories of a perfectly picked wife, and of a terrifying climb up the mountain Moriah and the most beautiful ram he has ever, ever seen at the most perfect moment.  A grandfather who traveled all over and was shown tremendous grace everywhere he went.

And the stage for the Exodus is being set, where God reintroduces Himself to his own people, to give them new life, again, and to reissue his same promise, again, to be their God and deliverer.

Jesus gets a New Job

Posted: October 6, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Whenever an icon dies, a plethora of statements light up, like christmas lights buried in a dusting of snow.  I remember driving my ’79 Caprice Classic station wagon up Cornwall.  I had just passed Assumption on my right, and the First United Church of Christ on my left when the DJ on the radio announced that Kurt Cobain had died.  Well, he didn’t really die so much as he killed himself.  Small detail.

Anyway, yesterday Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died.  First the AP News alert buzzed in my pocket.  Then the little “Drudge Report” siren went of in my pocket, and I pulled my phone out to read the headline.  “Apple reports that Steve Jobs has died.”

I told my wife as I continued walking and she said “REALLY?!”  Like she didn’t believe me.  I don’t think it was the headline that surprised her nearly as much as the way I said it.  Like it wasn’t really a surprise- we all knew it was coming.  Sort of like when you get a wedding invitation in the mail.  Or a bill.  They are remarkable occasions- but not collapse-on-the-floor surprising.

I couldn’t help but wonder.  All the hype this week (at least in techno/gizmo world) was the annual confab in Cupertino.  All the pundits were speculating about what new wonder-of-the-world-to-be Apple would be unveiling.  Traditionally, this was one of Jobs niche areas.  The unveiling.  The pulling back of the curtain.  The old ipod in my pocket- OH NO WAIT!  It’s in my COIN-POCKET!  CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?!”

And the next day, Jobs is dead.  Just like that.

I’ve been 23 for a long, long time.  I’m not sure what’s so special about 23 for me.  When I first turned 23 I was a “recent college graduate.”  I had double majors- one in Philosophy, and the other in Theology.  I added that last one my senior year, around Christmas.  I was looking at my schedule and realized that I’d just about met the requirements for the degree without even being an inked member of the tribe.  So I went ahead and posse’d up.

In other words, I lived in a small apartment in a small town with a roommate and lived on a painter’s wages.  Single, limited prospects and slimming.

Yeah, no.  Not like Matisse or Picasso.  Like “Joe’s Housepainting.”  Or like “random-guy-in-a-spray-booth-with-mask-and-paintgun-in-average-American-factory” painter.

Since then, I’ve moved.  Bought several cars.  Bought two houses, gotten married, had 4 (seriously) kids, had a job, gave up a job, had a dream, given up a dream, changed a dream, stayed married, started homeschooling 1st of 4 (no, really) children, and my dad has died.  But in my head, sometimes, I still think I’m 23 with lots of life before me.  Plenty of time.  No real consequences.

Pipe smoke.  Not even a pipe dream.

Thing that I wonder at is that Steve Jobs was more handsome at 56 than he was at 36.  He was a more widely revered manager, innovator and designer than ever.  The older he got, the more iconic he became.  We’re not talking young, beautiful and reckless.  This isn’t rock-stardom.  It’s something bigger.  I don’t mean to be flippant, but maybe my kool-aide mustache is showing here.  His life had global impact.  His vision and persistence changed economies.  Not singular.  Plural.  And it was created.  He didn’t do it by killing, stealing, terrorizing or destroying.  He did it constructively.

And yet, yesterday, after all the hype, after all the people had gone home from the iFrenzy in Cupertino, Steve Jobs died.  And Apple goes on.  We go on.  The world still goes on.

The world will never be the same- not even close.  But spin it will.

We all face that dark corner in our rooms though, don’t we?  I remember looking at my newborn son’s hands.  I remember my dad telling me about how he used to hold my little hands, and wonder.  You have to think his dad might have done the same thing.  And that my sons will too.

And I will face that dark corner that we all must face.  I will lay down in my bed, sit down in my chair (I’m being optimistic here), and my brain will skip a note.  The God made union of spirit and clay will be broken, again, finally, for the last time until He mysteriously joins them in a new way.  A new indestructible way.

Here’s another thing though.  When this happens, when an entire generation turns a corner together in it’s corporate passing of time- at moments like those I gain even greater faith in my past.  Seems weird, I suppose.  But as Steve Jobs dies, and his life merges with rest of eternity, I realize, again, that just as his did, lives passed before that, and again before that.  Does reality now have any more validity than the realities of those previous to mine?  No.  Just as my reality is a reliable one, all of those that came before me are also reliable.  And it can then go back, back, back.

The men who left their families, their wives, their businesses, because Jesus persuaded them with a look- those men are no less real than I am.  Than we are.

Their lives are no less real.  And when those men faced their deaths, those were no less real either.  Only one of the 12 apostles that Jesus called had “peaceful” deaths.  One.  All eleven of those men faced something violent- something that challenged their conviction.  All of them had opportunities to trade their convictions in for something less painful.  Less horrid.  And yet they stayed.  They had seen something unbelievable, something that even seeing could not persuade for some.

The letters and books that make up what we call the bible have an aura of mystery about them.  When we talk about them being inspired by God they gain a mysticism, an elevation.  And they acquire the ability to be disbelieved.  To be considered unreliable.


They are all handwritten.  Yes, of course, our copies are typed copies, bought and sold.  Commodities.  But somebody set their hand to the purpose of writing them out.  And with that, the time.  This stuff was important.

Do you think the world will go on?  I mean really?  Like, can you imagine the world in a 100 years?  How about 500?  How about 2,000 years?  Honestly, with all the dire predictions, asteroids, economic collapse, world war, ethnic cleansing, Skynet and this Robo-dog, I struggle to imagine the world outliving me.  Can John Conner do it?

Did you know that the 4 Gospels in the Bible- the four narrative accounts of Jesus’ ministry, were about the last books actually written?

Does that make them less reliable?

The letters Paul, James, Peter wrote, the books that make up the rest of the New Testament, were written first.

Why?  Maybe because they didn’t expect the world to last long enough to need a written account.  Maybe it wasn’t until people started to think, started to notice they were actually dying!  We should write this crap down!  Somebody might need to know this stuff after… after I’m gone!

Our lives matter.  What we do draws the lines for the next generation to fill in.  No lines?  No fill.  No fill?  No drawing.  Period.

But that doesn’t mean that we are the end of time.  Time’s culmination.  Fascinating.

New International Version (©1984)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

New Living Translation (©2007)
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

English Standard Version (©2001)
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

I have a great friend and pastor who once dropped this one on me: Jesus, in his resurrected body, is the most real thing in the universe.


Rob Bell, in his book Velvet Elvis, writes that he is “simply trying to orient myself around living a particular kind of way, the kind of way that Jesus taught is possible.  And I think that the way of Jesus is the best possible way to live.”  Later, Bell writes that when you live the “way” Jesus taught, you begin to notice- to realize that you are living more in harmony with “ultimate reality.”


Yesterday, the pastor’s message had a brilliant line: “The degree to which you are obeying the law of God, you are real.”

(commence forceful popping).

So in your very best “Cheech” voice, ask yourself with me: “What is re-AL-ity, maaaan?”

What is “real” anyways?  Is “real” something you can see?  Something you can touch?  Does tangibility constitute being “real”?  What qualities do all “real” things share?

What qualities do “UN-real” things share?

The bible talks about principalities and powers, it talks about spirits of the air.  It talks about levels of Heaven, and the world of the grave (Sheol).  It talks about the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of Caesar.

Jesus say “my kingdom is not of this world.”  There’s angels and demons.

Or do we go with Neo?  There is NO spoon.  (remember to take the bag out when popping slows to 2 or 3 seconds between pops).

The question for me is this: if Jesus lived the perfect life, and has been resurrected- if Jesus’ resurrection is actually the firstborn of man to the life that God desires for all of us, if that is our goal, our destiny, our pursuit- to live into that life- is there anything now that can be called real?  Is there anything now worth doing?

Paul writes that the deeds of our lives will be tested- sort of like a product from a factory- “Does it meet x-y-z criterion?  Will it be what we are saying it will be”?  He says that when it is tested all that which was not of God and for God will be burned away, leaving only what is God pleasing to remain.  And that will represent our life to God.  This is not a scale.  We do not need to make weight to be received warmly by God.  We are received warmly by God.  Period.  But there is a noted difference between the things of our life now that are God’s and those which are not.

These things are real.  That which burns away- not so much.  They do not attach to our legacy.  God says those things are not real.

So what on earth are we left with?  Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven in the same breath as forgiveness.  As healing Luke 8:1-3.  As repentance (Mark 9:46-48).  In the same breath as mercy to the poor (Mark 10:21).  He talked about faith in the face of optimism (Matthew 8:9-11).  In the face of humility (Luke 7:28).  In the face of delayed gratification (Luke 22:16).

So I guess those are the things that are real.  Really, really real.  The degree to which my life looks like that, I am real.

What do I need to strip away to get down to the really real?  Where has my life taken on the qualities of unreality?