Getting back to work

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280One indisputable characteristic about the Old Testament prophets—they were weird.  I don’t say that disparagingly, but c’mon, they were not always the kind of people you’d invite to a office picnic.  Calling down fire from heaven, tying themselves in knots, and all that. 

Of course, they were good to have around when something needed fixed.

Case in point, the prophet Elisha has been persuaded to come with some of his students to build a new meeting place.  In the course of events, there was a problem:

Continue reading “Getting back to work”

Just another story…

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280When people say the Bible is boring, I have to question if we’re reading the same book.  Okay, so I get a bit bogged down in Leviticus when they’re talking about how to deal with infectious skin diseases, but truthfully, some of the accounts sound like a script straight out of Hollywood.

For example, the well-known story about the widow and her son barely scraping by during (one of) the terrible famines, a consequence brought about by the prophet Elijah at Yahweh’s behest, another attempt to get His people’s attention. God sends His man to this particular household, to a widow and her son, to ask for, guess what—food!  The response he gets is expected.

“But she said, ‘I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.’”

Elijah convinces her that, if she provides him with food and water, God would continue to miraculously multiply her supply to sustain her through the crisis.

What did she have to lose?

“So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days.” 

In Act Two, as if the famine wasn’t enough stress, this kind lady’s only son gets sick and dies.  She confronts the prophet, who has become a boarder during this time.  This widow is now overwhelmed with grief.  Her boy is dead, which back then had more implications than just the loss of a loved one.  Her future just got a whole lot more impoverished, both emotionally, and financially.

“Then she said to Elijah, ‘O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?’”

I love Elijah’s reply.  There’s no “oops”.  He doesn’t wring his hands.  In fact, there isn’t even a note of surprise or worry. 

“But Elijah replied, ‘Give me your son.’”

Once again, what did the mother have to lose?  Elijah takes the lifeless body up to his own room and prays. 

“The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived!  Then the woman told Elijah, ‘Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.’”

Which I find to be an interesting reaction from this mother.  Wasn’t the first miracle of the ever-flowing oil and grain enough to convince her of God’s presence working through His prophet? 

Different miracles

The first miracle was a life-sustaining one.  It had to do with maintenance. And it wasn’t like they had a five-course meal everyday, either.  Just enough oil and grain to keep them going, to sustain the life they had until the famine had passed.   

The second miracle was a life-giving one.  That which was dead has been resurrected.  Where life had been extinguished, life had been reborn.    

This gives me pause…

What do I have to lose?

God knows the level of my faith and intimacy with Him.  He also knows how fickle human beings like me (like you?) can be, allowing complacency to set in as what we once wondered at becomes normalcy and therefore taken for granted.  And He knows what is needed to take our faith and intimacy with Him to the next level, to jump start us out of that spiritual malaise. 

In other words, He not only knows how to maintain my dreams, even my faith, but also how to resurrect them and give them new life.

Of course, the first step is to hand it over to Him.

1 Kings 17:12; Hebrews 7:25 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Love notes, and other uses for dust.

cartoon-2516951_1920As a teenager, I learned the basics of cleaning house.  Mom “made” us do our own laundry (thanks, Mom, so very, very much!!), and we were responsible for keeping our own rooms clean(-ish).  Dusting was part of it, and if you ran out of Pledge, then a damp rag would suffice.  

They say “practice makes perfect”, so leave us say I am a less-than-perfect housekeeper, much less. Whoever comes to visit should leave the white gloves at home.  Never quite sure what you’ll find under the bed either, and a flat dusty surface is for writing love notes,…isn’t it?

My not-quite-Heloise skill doesn’t make me less appreciative of God’s perfection, however.  Case in point, I love this description of the Baal vs. Yahweh encounter.  The prophets of Baal do all they can, and more so, to get their god to light the sacrificial fire on their alter, yet have nothing to show for it but raw hamburger. Continue reading “Love notes, and other uses for dust.”

Say, what??

windsor-castle-1253197_1920Bob has been a little concerned about my hearing.  Of course, when it comes to watching our beloved British shows on TV, we both have to turn up the volume, if you get my drift.  Our very entrenched Midwest American minds don’t always pick up the subtleties of our Anglo-neighbors, and we end up asking each other—

“What did he just say?”

“I dunno…turn it up.”

Neither of us want to miss any of the important plot developments for lack of communication, y’know.

Which is absolutely what could have happened here, but thankfully somebody was listening closely: Continue reading “Say, what??”

Ivory towers—nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. 

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280My dear father-in-law was beautifully British.  I remember seeing a castle just sitting out in the field one time while visiting and driving through the Anglican countryside.  Now there’s a site you don’t see amidst the corn in Midwest rural America!

Quite a different lifestyle, that was.  It conjures up pictures of courtiers and knights and princesses tucked away in gabled towers.  Here comes the enemy, so just pull up the drawbridge, and release the alligators into the moat.  How convenient would that be when the IRS comes lurking about? Continue reading “Ivory towers—nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. “

Applied wisdom

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280I’ve heard the phrase, “patience of Job”, which seems a bit overstated, at least on a cursory first reading of the account.  Not that I would have done any better, and most probably a lot worse.  The idea is that, despite all his suffering, he never let go of God.  Okay, I get that.

Then there’s this one: “wisdom of Solomon”.  As the account reads, God had given Solomon a blank check, and instead of riches and fame, he humbly asked for wisdom.  God was pretty happy about that, and gave the new king riches and fame in addition to the wisdom.  That’s pretty neat. Continue reading “Applied wisdom”

Pop Quiz!

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280I have a tendency to make improbable things happen, rarely intimated by what others would consider sorely inconvenient or even overwhelming obstacles.  Bob considers it one of the challenging/scary parts of my personality compared to his very ordered/cautious one.  There are several common analogies for this particular trait:

Mover and shaker.

Trailblazer.

He who hesitates is lost.

God can steer a boat easier if it’s not tied to the dock…all that.

Then there’s this one:

Biting off more than you can chew—yep, I know about that one also.  Sometimes, it includes my own foot, if you get my drift.  And things can get messy. Continue reading “Pop Quiz!”

Table-turning

Underdog_(animated_TV_series)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The iconic Underdog character was birthed from the mind of W. Watts Biggers. I think he intuitively knew our American mindset in this area!

Why am I always rooting for the underdog?  I love David and Goliath stories, and how the tables are turned on the bullies, whether that bully comes in the form of a person or an attitude.  Like this one: Continue reading “Table-turning”

It’s Complicated (Part 3)

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280All of Israel is now up in arms (literally) and ready to rumble against…whom?

NOT against the man who pushed his partner/concubine out the door to be serial-raped by the townsmen to save his own skin.  Nope.  She was merely his property, and this shameful injustice was done to the man, not to the woman.

Eh-hem…

As I mentioned earlier, some unknowing folks might consider this an argument for an estrogen-hating God of the Bible, which is terribly unfortunate, as well as simply unfair and untrue, as (to quote Paul Harvey) “the rest of the story” bears out:

 “Then all the Israelites were united as one man…The entire community assembled in the presence of the Lord at Mizpah…The Israelites then asked how this terrible crime had happened.”

Credit to them for attempting to go the source information, but unfortunately the victim was decidedly unavailable for comment.

“The Levite, the husband of the woman who had been murdered, said, ‘My concubine and I came to spend the night in Gibeah, a town that belongs to the people of Benjamin. That night some of the leading citizens of Gibeah surrounded the house, planning to kill me, and they raped my concubine until she was dead.” 

How convenient that he left out the part about him pushing her out the door to save himself.  This brave soul continues:

“So I cut her body into twelve pieces and sent the pieces throughout the territory assigned to Israel, for these men have committed a terrible and shameful crime.

Now then, all of you—the entire community of Israel—must decide here and now what should be done about this!”

Granted, that’s one way to get their attention, and whip emotions into a frenzy (because that always has a positive outcome).

The men of Israel went to the people of Benjamin (one of the tribes of Israel) and ordered them to give up the men responsible for punishment, but they were refused.  It was decided that rest of the men of Israel would attacked the tribe of Benjamin in retaliation, but beforehand, thought it wise to consult God.

This is where it gets quite interesting.

“Before the battle the Israelites went to Bethel and asked God, “Which tribe should go first to attack the people of Benjamin?”

I love this—“before the battle”.  War and bloodshed were a given in their play book.  Swords were already sharpened and helmets were in place when they went to God.  No humility, no “hey, guys, maybe God’s got a different plan…?  What if we’re not seeing the whole story….??” 

God’s answer is brilliant.  Harrowing, but brilliant.

The Lord answered, “Judah is to go first.”

So…God was in this.  Somewhere, somehow, He was in this orchestrating…something.  Understand also that Judah was the tribe of kings.  King David was from Judah.  Jesus Himself came from Judah.  So for God to put the tribe of Judah in front of a battle was not a mistake.  He was about to make a very big point.  Check it out:

“But Benjamin’s warriors, who were defending the town, came out and killed 22,000 Israelites on the battlefield that day.”

Twenty-two THOUSAND Israelis were slaughtered, Judah at the front!  After God, Himself, told them to go up!  Can we grasp what God was trying to say here??

“They had asked the Lord, “Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again?”

And the Lord had said, “Go out and fight against them.”

And what does Take 2 get them:

“So the next day they went out again to fight against the men of Benjamin, but the men of Benjamin killed another 18,000 Israelites, all of whom were experienced with the sword.”

Third time:

“The Israelites asked the Lord, ‘Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again, or should we stop?’”

“The Lord said, ‘Go! Tomorrow I will hand them over to you.’”

(Maybe they should have clarified that point the first time?)

And now, they defeated the Benjaminites, leaving only 600 men, and—

 “…the Israelites returned and slaughtered every living thing in all the towns—the people, the livestock, and everything they found. They also burned down all the towns they came to.”

Basically, a whole tribe of Israel was wiped off the face of the planet, along with tens of thousands of other Hebrew men. In painful hind site, you can hear their lament:

“ O LORD, God of Israel,” they cried out, “why has this happened in Israel? Now one of our tribes is missing from Israel!”

That was not a solution.  That was not even the justice they were looking for.  (Although I doubt not that it was part of God’s!  No one can tell me He wasn’t angry about that poor woman!)

What a pathetic waste.

Which is exactly what we get ourselves into when we, the church, start going down the road of “doing our own thing” and mixing our devotion to God with anything else, (which then ceases to be devotion to God). 

We may think this whole scenario began with someone thinking it was okay to use someone else to save himself which ended up destroying an entire tribe of God’s people. 

But, no, it actually started back in a Garden with listening to a slithering enemy whisper, “Did God really say that?”

   …that it’s not okay to treat people like property?                                                                                           

   …that using any gift (including sex) outside of God’s design is a bad idea?                                                                              

   …that the Creator of the Universe doesn’t need my help in rethinking His solutions?

   …that that He, alone, is God, and I should spend my life learning just what that means.

Here, then, are the dangers of syncretism, compromise, and not knowing our Source Document. Of believing in what seems right in our own eyes, even (especially!) within the church.

The church has a King, but the church in America doesn’t generally act like it.  We are under a Government, but we squabble like Congress, getting precious little done, then decide to go on vacation, prepared to leave God’s people bankrupt—bereft of true love, setting up in place our own idols of pride and ephods of offenses.  We consider it more important to be right than righteous, and a dying world sees the Church as pathetic and petty instead of priceless.traveler-1611614_1920

No wonder our own culture sends us into exile.

Judges 20, Judges 21:1 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

It’s Complicated…(Part 2)

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280After yesterday’s post, now the plot thickens…with blood.

And lots of it.

Like, Stephen King and Nightmare on Elm Street all rolled into one.  Here’s a brief recap:

Hebrew man and half-wife (concubine) traveling through town in area of the Israeli tribe of Benjamin; brought in to spend the night with nice man who knows better than to let them stay out at night in the town square.  We found out why in the next few verses because… Continue reading “It’s Complicated…(Part 2)”